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Essay: Non-verbal communication in healthcare situations (eye contact, silence)

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  • Published: July 9, 2021*
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  • Non-verbal communication in healthcare situations (eye contact, silence)
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Effective communication is very important in therapeutic relationship and in health care professional. The communication it can be verbal and non verbal. non verbal communication contain some symbols and pictures such as body languages, touch and gesture.

There are many non-verbal tools that can lead to a better and effective communication such as eye contact and using silence ,. Many research and survey support that it have many advantages and importance in the communication process, culture and person idea effect using and understanding these tools. In our research we are going to discus two kind of non-verbal communication tools , eye contact and using silence.

Eye contact:

The eyes are powerful tools in all types of communication and eye contact is one of the keys that lead to effective communication. In fact, eye contact is the first part of human communication ,(n.a,2011) .

Each person have his own definition for eye contact but according to, ‘eye contact’ is defined as:

The act of looking directly into another’s eyes…a meeting of the eyes of two persons, regarded as a meaningful nonverbal form of communication.

Using eye contact:

We use eye contact daily without knowing that , and its important to learn how to maintain it.

For the nurses they use eye contact with their patient , colleges , and other people in the community. Nurse who use eye contact with her patient build a good relationship with them and by eye contact can show them that she care, but they have really to be aware about using it because they come very close to the patient and deal with different people. (Hall, E. 1966)

Imagine yourself as a patient and the nurse who is caring about you don’t use eye contact , she always look away or to the wall while talking, sure this will give a message that what you are talking about is not importance to her.

And also it’s a way to express warmth, in a research about patient-nurse relationship the result was:

– Preferred eye contact was directed to the patient’s eyes or their affected part (41.1%).

– Patients preferred direct eye contact (58.9%) (Hakhohe,H. 1990)

Importance of eye contact:

You can show the speaker that you are interested or not by eye contact , for example if you look away and not paying any attention to the someone who is speaking than its clearly that you are not interested in what they are talking about. Also in many culture making eye contact shows that you respect the person who is speaking , American culture for example.

And by eye contact you can show the speaker that you understand what he is talking about also other body language and communication techniques may accompany the eye contact to show that, such as nodding the head up and down and confirmation sounds.(n.a,2011)

And as a speaker it is also important to maintain eye contact so you show confidence and your idea be clear. in other side lack of eye contact may signal lack of confidence and clarity on a subject.( Pandita,R. 2011).


Eye contact within cultures:

while using eye contact we have to consider the diversity of cultures, for example, Japanese individuals exhibit less eye contact than do individuals from Western European or North American cultures.( Dean,j. 2013)

In the United States and other European countries like Spain, France, and Germany, using direct eye contact is accepted and its show confidence, and respect for what the other is saying. In Native American culture and most Latin-American, Asian, and African cultures, the opposite is true. So we can say that the differ between culture that occur because they follow the tradition of maintaining a social hierarchy make eye contact harder and let you think before you look.( Mail,H&Swnju,A&Uibo,H ,2013)


Definition and types of silence:

Silence is absent of speech and is filled of feeling and texture, and it can effect in therapeutic relationship. In this period the nurse waits and listens to a patient without interruption the patient ( Med,J.P. (2009)). It helps the patients to exchanging the feeling and thoughts with nurses so the patients feel safe and comfort(DeGeorge,D. (2005, April)).. There are two types of silence which are silence with presence and silence with absent. The silence with presence, it puts you in this moment and you a quite without say anything and it occurs in nurses. However, the silence with absent means they are present but their mind in somewhere else. This silence does not work well in hospital or clinical setting ( Miracle,V. (2007)).


Positive effect of silence:

The patients and nurses feel uncomfortable with silence because they thing their mind think in something else so you should shake head or say “yes” or “I am with you” to show they hear and follow with them. a positive silence can be a valuable tools in therapeutic. 1) encourage the patients to talk, 2) give the patients times to organize their thoughts or problems and weight decision, 3) it allows the patient to discover that he can be accepted even though he is silent or shy and he is respected by another person. The silence should not be more than 10-15 seconds. If the nurse is silent and the patient is talking the nurse should response the patient and takes a note so a patient feels the nurse is caring about him or her. The patients are encouraged and will express more (n.a) (n.d).


Negative effects of silence:

The silence is not always helpful or good technique to use in healthcare professional so there are some negatives effects of silences. It is difficult to use in every conversation because sometimes it is the chance of sending wrong messages and may be the focus in interview can be lost.. Therefore, the nurses must know how to deal with this technique. However, the silence is the best way to gain information, felling and thought between a patient and a nurse or in any communication (Servellen,V,. &Marram,G, (2009)).


Silence in different cultures and interresponsetime :

The number of problems may increase when occur silences in interpersonal communication. This problems caused by different meanings of silence in different cultures. Therefore, the nurses should know meanings of silence for different culture.

Interesponse time: it is the number of seconds and minutes of silence. In some culture, the interresponse is more than a second and speak slower like in Maine and parts of the South and Southwest but in New York they speak fast so the interresponse time is very short less than seconds. However, interruption is impact the conversation and it is cutting person’s idea feelings and thoughts. The nurses should wait can keep silent until the patient finishes. When both parties begin speak at the same time it is called over-talk. In this conversation is filled with interruption (Servellen,V,. &Marram,G, (2009)).



For better and effective communication we have to control all the nonverbal tools carefully not just the eye contact and using silence , and before that takes in consider the verity of culture . It is really important to know more about non – verbal tools because it have a lot of advantages and help making conversation easier,eye contact and using silence are significant tools in any communication, whether therapeutic or social communication.


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