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Breaking down body language

Apr 01, 2008
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Body language

LAS VEGAS — Only 7 percent of what we say is actually heard — our bodies do the most important communicating without saying a word.

Body language is an effective tool for conveying a message, giving feedback, reading another’s emotions and getting people to like and trust us, says Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, with Innovative Veterinary Management Solutions in Phoenix.

“The use of body language is insight into other people’s minds,” he told attendees at Western Veterinary Conference.

Since actions literally speak louder than words, be aware of what you are saying, good and bad, to your clients.

To show 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.

But avoid arrogance and domination of clients and employees,which is interpreted through:

  • Wide-spread legs while seated (mostly male characteristic)
  • Elevating yourself over others

Nervousness can be detected by:

  • Clenching fists
  • Tapping feet
  • Crossing legs while standing
  • Using a wilted handshake

You show 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 nose

Also pay attention to your clients’ body language — it is the best indicator to how they respond to you and the information you are providing about their animal.

Clients show they feel receptive to ideas by:

  • Resting hands flat on the table
  • Keeping palms open
  • Smiling frequently
  • Wearing an unbuttoned coat

They show hesitance or frustration by:

  • Playing with rings, watches, glasses
  • Pinching the bridge of nose
  • Scratching the back of neck

They may be hiding information or lying about something that is important to their pet’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 fists
  • Tap hands or feet
  • Cross arms
  • Blink eyes incessantly

They show the need for reassurance about recommendations by:

  • Sticking a pen in mouth
  • Squeezing the chunky part of hand
  • Biting nails
  • Touching throat