A wise sage once said, "We speak with our eyes." We could add eyebrows to this sentence. Our eyes and eyebrows communicate
attitudes and emotions. They may convey surprise, compassion, fear, grief, doubt or dislike. (Consider this observation: He
gave her the evil eye!") Maintaining friendly eye contact with others often promotes trust. Looking an individual in the eye
when making an important statement can also add emphasis to what we say. On the other hand, our clients might doubt our sincerity
or competence if we avoid respectful eye contact with them during our conversation. Yet, in context of communication, discernment
is often required. Some individuals might view intense eye contact as rude, aggressive or challenging.
Our personal appearance also can be a factor in that it can add to or distract from our message. Dressing in a neat and attractive
manner conveys respect for our clients and those with whom we work.
What are the most-important components of communication?
Please recall the question raised at the beginning of this essay: "Which of the following components is, in your opinion,
most important: speaking, listening, or understanding?" Won't you agree that choosing whether speaking, listening or understanding
is most important in fostering communication is comparable to choosing which leg is most important on a three-legged stool?
In both examples, all three components are important and must be in proper balance with each other to achieve the desired
Communicating with our clients is not only a science (i.e. we must ask them the right questions), it is an art (i.e. we must
ask them the questions right). To achieve this balance, considerable skill in speaking is required to efficiently direct the
flow of information without stifling their conversation or putting words in their mouth.
Listening skills are also of paramount significance. In addition to learning how to listen and when to listen, we also must
want to listen. When clients realize that we are empathically listening to them because we want to understand them, they are
most likely to feel that we are serving them to the best of our ability. In this way, we build trusting relationships that
enhance our ability to provide highly effective patient care. Stephen Covey, author of the book "The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People" summarized this important concept in this way: "Seek first to understand, and then be understood." By empathically
listening and speaking to our clients, they in turn are more likely to listen to our interpretations of the causes of their
concerns, and to ultimately comply with our recommendations of options to solve them.
For everything there is an appointed time. A time to listen and a time to speak.
-After, Ecclesiastes 3: 1,7