Verbal And NonVerbal Communication

Verbal Communication

Spoken language is a key means of communication. However, the meaning of words can change, depending on vocal pitch and inflection, word emphasis, and pauses. Therefore, the medical assistant must consistently speak clearly, enunciate carefully, use a pleasant tone of voice, and keep her mind on the messages she is conveying. She must also remember that many patients, especially the elderly, may have some degree of hearing loss. When speaking to such individuals, she should face toward them so that they can see her lips and use adequate volume without shouting.

Nonverbal Communications

When a discrepancy exists between verbal and nonverbalmessages, a listener will tend to believe the nonverbal message. Therefore, the medical assistant must pay careful attention to her body language. Body language encompasses many components, including hand gestures, mannerisms, facial expressions, posture, touch, and the use of personal space. A medical assistant in a closed stance with her arms crossed, who is looking away from the person and wearing a solemn expression, conveys disinterest or displeasure. To help patients feel welcome and at ease and to project the message of concern, caring, and openness, the medical assistant should use an open body stance, make frequent eye contact, and maintain a pleasant expression, punctuated by an occasional, genuine smile.
An important feature of body language is personal space. The study of how much personal space people prefer and how it relates to cultural and environmental factors is known as proxemics. Proxemics of people in the United States reveal a preference for public space up to 25', social space between 4' and 12', personal space from 11.2' to 4', and intimate space as 0' (direct touch) to 11.2'. People are generally reluctant to give up these barriers without a compelling reason. For example, most people are willing to stand closer than usual to a stranger in a crowded elevator or when exiting a crowded concert hall. Even so, there are commonly additional unspoken rules that dictate acceptable behavior in such situations. For example, when riding in crowded elevators, people rarely speak to one another, always face forward, and avoid making eye contact. In waiting rooms, patients rarely choose to sit directly next to a stranger if other options exist. Some may even choose to remain standing in order to maintain control over personal space. Most people do not invite others into their personal space until a degree of trust and rapport has been established. Yet the health care arena necessitates some exceptions to the rules of personal space.When a patient seeks medical care, he or she generally expects a certain amount of touching to be involved. However, because the touching is extremely personal in some cases, as with a female pelvic examination, the knowledge that such touch is necessary does not automatically make patients feel comfortable with it. Therefore, the medical assistant and other members of the health care team must treat each patient with respect and sensitivity. Most patients feel vulnerable in such situations and want to trust that all touching is  appropriate and professional. To earn and maintain such trust, the medical assistant must protect the patient's privacy and dignity. Touch can be used in an emotionally therapeutic manner to convey interest, sincerity, and empathy. Examples of such touch might include a warm, firm handshake; a pat on the arm; or gently assisting someone as they stand to their feet or get off an examination table. Many patients welcome such forms of appropriate touch and report that it helps them to feel acknowledged and cared for. However, because not all patients welcome such touch, the medical assistant must learn to read the body language of the patient and follow his or her cues. It is always best to err on the side of caution, using less, rather than more, touch when unsure. especially when dealing with the opposite sex.