Veterinary Practice Tips: What Is Your Body Language Communicating?

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 @ 04:13 PM Mia Varra

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By; Hilary Parker

Studies show that less than 10 percent of what we say is actually absorbed by our clients. (That explains a lot, doesn’t it?) And yet I’m betting most veterinary professionals haven’t attended even a single class on using — and reading — body language to help improve their conversations with clients.                 

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According to Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, McVey Management Solutions, Chicago, veterinarians need to be even more aware of what they’re communicating with their bodies than their words. McVey, a graduate of Purdue’s Veterinary Management Institute who holds a master’s degree in behavioral science, offers the following tips:
To display confidence, authority and power…
•    Maintain eye contact and rarely look below a person’s mouth.
•    Speak in a low-pitched, slow-paced voice.
•    Lean back in your seat with hands supporting head.
•    Walk solidly with arms swinging forcefully.
•    Join the fingertips of both hands together, keeping palms apart.
You may be communicating nervousness by…
•    Clenching fists
•    Tapping feet
•    Crossing legs while standing
•    Using a wilted handshake
You may be showing doubt or suspicion of a client by…
•    Glancing sideways or down
•    Rubbing or clutching eyes
•    Tucking hands in pockets or across chest
•    Preening over glasses
•    Touching your nose
McVey also encourages vets to avoid communicating arrogance and domination of clients and employees, which is interpreted through wide-spread legs while seated (a mostly male characteristic) and elevating themselves over others.
He also notes that much can be gained by paying attention to the client’s body language, as it is the best indicator of how they feel about you and the information you’re providing.

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Clients are receptive to your ideas if they…
•    Rest their hands flat on the table
•    Keep their palms open
•    Smile frequently
•    Wear an unbuttoned coat
They show hesitance or frustration when they…
•    Play with rings, watches, glasses
•    Pinch the bridge of their nose
•    Scratch the back of their neck
They may be hiding information or lying about something that is important to their animal’s care by…
•    Hiding hands in pockets
•    Blinking rapidly
•    Avoiding eye contact
•    Often swallowing or clearing throat

Boredom is expressed through…
•    Supporting head with hand
•    Pulling on ears
•    Restless movement, yawning
•    Crossing and re-crossing of legs

Anger exists when they…
•    Clench their fists
•    Tap their hands or feet
•    Cross their arms
•    Blink eyes incessantly 

They show the need for reassurance about recommendations when they…
•    Stick a pen in their mouth
•    Squeeze the chunky part of their hand
•    Bite their nails
•    Touch their throat

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