How does nonverbal communication affect communication between a provider and a consumer (patient)?  

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In general, verbal communication conveys specific words and thoughts, but nonverbal communication conveys attitudes and feelings.  In the context of interactions between health care providers and their patients, both of these kinds of communication are very important.

Of course, verbal communication is very important.  Patients need to be able to describe their problems to the provider.  The provider needs to tell the patient what needs to be done.

However, that is not all there is to communication.  Teachers are often told that no one “cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”  The same can go for health care providers.  The nonverbal aspects of a provider’s communications are important in establishing an atmosphere of trust and caring with the patient.  If a patient comes in and starts talking to a doctor, the patient will lose trust and faith in the doctor if the doctor looks bored or does not look like they are paying attention to the patient.  If the doctor sends that sort of signal with his or her nonverbal communications, the whole relationship between doctor and patient will be compromised.  The verbal communications will not be able to make up for these negative nonverbal messages.

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