Communication with Patients as an Introvert
Physicians and nurses come in all personality types. Some are out going, funny, charming and gregarious. Others are quieter and more measured in communicating with their patients. There is the type that likes to offer hugs and are very comfortable patting hands and putting a hand on the shoulder, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t do that can’t connect effectively with their patients.
Physicians and nurses should be genuine in what ever their communication style is. Their genuineness will come through to their patients.
Some of the most important things to keep in mind and demonstrate with patients are:
Empathy. Empathy allows us to connect to the feelings of the patient and understand what they are going through. It helps patients feel like they matter and are respected and valued. We all have the ability to show empathy toward others. It’s the mirror neurons firing in our brains that allow us to connect on an emotional level.
Body Language. Non verbal communication is powerful. It has been said that 50 to 80 per cent of what we are communicating comes from our body language. So, how you position yourself when involved with the patient speaks volumes.
Upon entering the patients exam room offer a handshake, make good eye contact and sit down. When sitting you are perceived to spend more time with the patient than if standing. And it puts you at their level. It also sends the message that you have time to listen to them.
Balance. When looking at the computer screen and charting make sure you balance looking at the screen with making good eye contact with the patient. A good trick is to look at the patient when asking a question and return to the computer to enter the data.
Listening. Be a good listener. Allow patients to talk without interruption before responding. Pausing before responding lets the patient know you are processing what they have said. It also allows you to formulate your response more effectively.
Lean in when listening and acknowledge what is being said by nodding. Validate verbally what is being said with phrases like; “I understand what you are saying” or paraphrasing back to the patient what has been said.
A quiet, steady approach can achieve a high level of connection too. And do keep in mind that too much touching and patting may be perceived as patronizing. Some of your patients will be the quiet steady type too, and don’t feel the need for hugging and patting. Another important reason to being attentive to each patients needs.