the effect of your affect…

Dale Carnegie once estimated that close to 60% of human communication is non-verbal. In other words, more than half of the message others take from us is not coming from our mouth.  The direction we point our bodies, our posture, the the look on our face, the pre-occupation with our smart phones while waiting, even how we position our feet sends a message.

Picture this – you’re in a doctor’s office being told the results of a very important blood test. The results could release you from worry or they could just as easily magnify and even confirm your worst fears.  Your doctor walks in appearing mildly disheveled, flipping through papers, standing with one hand on the door knob as if he cannot wait to leave the room, while with the other hand he balances his cell phone between his pinky and ring fingers as he tries to read the clipboard pinched between his index finger and thumb.  Before he can even get a word out, your mind is racing…

Is he engaged? Does he care? Why can’t he put his cell phone away?  Will the door fall off if he lets it go?  Is he trying to add to my stress level? Does he know how important this is? Is he even going to sit down for a minute? Can I trust this person’s advice?  Does he even know what he’s talking about?

And so on…

At this point, does it really matter what he says?

Probably not.

You’re headed for a second opinion.

Luckily, we in Vision Therapy are not relaying such life or death news. We are, however, in the business of giving people hope and with any luck, showing them a path to success.  That path begins with trust, and trust begins with I’m – as in the message I’m sending. There’s lots of components to this, but the most important and easiest to control is our face. Are we looking at the patient when they’re talking?  Can we keep good eye contact?  Are we listening intently? Are we at their eye level?

I cannot tell you how often we will sit on the floor to meet a kid at their level, literally. There is such power in not being a “big scary adult” towering over them; rather, someone who cares enough to sit on the floor and listen.  We’re eye level with solid eye contact, a soft smile, and a true interest in what’s being said.  I know, I know. We wear nice clothes to work and sitting on the floor gets them dirty.  My friends, it’s a small price to pay for changing lives.  Your job, and mine too, is not only to help our patient’s visual challenges but also to find a way into the nucleus of their trust bank so they will allow those changes to occur.  The message our body language communicates to them is such an incredibly big part of that trust.  Get on the floor and listen to them, be at their eye level, understand that for most of these kids a doctor’s office is a scary place. Show them that we are the exception to that perception. Show them that you truly are interested in them and how they struggle and succeed. Most importantly, show them how far a smile can really go!  And for anyone having trouble with this, give yourself a break!  It definitely takes practice to find what works best.

Just remember that the look on your face will always speak volumes to your patients. So smile when you can, listen with your eyes, engage with your mind and be in the moment with them.  One exercise I always try is to put myself in the patient’s shoes…and figure out what this visit seems like to them.

If you start there, you cannot go wrong.


Posted on October 8, 2014, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Robert, thanks for bringing me back to what matters at the end of a very long day! Jenni


  2. williamsandmintod

    Robert, This sounds interesting, but our computer did not download the rest. I will try it at home. gjw


  3. Wonderful blog! Knowing that you are respected and cared for is a very important part of the healing process. The Vision Therapists and VTODs that I know take this very much to heart!


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