When people come into the healthcare system, it is a safe bet that they are not doing cartwheels in your hallways. They don’t feel well and their energy levels are probably low. However, if we are high energy (which is great!), that would actually overwhelm people. Patients may be turned off by healthcare professionals that are busting at the seams with enthusiasm. A friend of mine told me her daughter who was hospitalized with pregnancy complications. Her daughter was in significant pain. The daughter mentioned one nurse who used to bounce in the room full of energy; the daughter found this boundless energy too much for her.
It would seem to make sense that energy and enthusiasm are excellent characteristics of a healthcare professional. They are! However, when establishing rapport with patients we have to think about matching energy levels. If our energy level is very high and the patent’s energy is very low, we could experience a communication disconnect. This is exactly what happened with my friend’s daughter. The nurse though being high energy would be a good way to establish rapport.
We need to meet patients where they are. We need to meet then at their level of energy. Does this mean that if a patient is depressed and low energy we need to become depressed? Of course not! However, what we need to do is lower our energy a bit so we do not cause a communication disconnect.
Mirroring and matching are techniques used to establish rapport at the unconscious level. This is created by becoming like the person with whom you need to make a connection. We need to make a connection with patients! When talking to patients look at their gestures and vocal inflexions. In a subtle way try to “match” these behaviors. Subtle is the key word; we do not want to make it obvious or the patient may think we are mocking them. People feel more comfortable with people who act like them. For example, if your patient uses a lot of certain hand gestures, you may need to increase your level of these hand gestures.
If you look at people in the workplace or social situations who seem to be very engaged, notice they most likely have similar body language and tone of voice. They are in sync. We need to be in sync with our patients through the the strategies of matching and mirroring.
Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication. The Center focuses on increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing the risk of medical errors. We offer high-impact training, consulting and one-on-one coaching. Contact us today!
http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com or 1-800-677-3256