Tip/Thought of the Day

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

We spend so much of our lives learning to be politically correct. Learning to say the right thing at the right time. But I am shocked at how little interest we give to the biggest form of communication. The way most people communicate everyday- through actions, not words.

Not answering a phone call or text speaks louder then anything one can say.

How one look can destroy or elevate to new height’s.

A greeting filled with love and acceptance versus one filled with disdain or indifference. A little girl rushing into my arms after a long day made everything worthwhile. A teenager unhappy with rules, making that clear with deafening silence made the days longer.

We all know someone who’s brilliant at this means of communicating, we all know that contradictory feeling. When told we did well but the body language clearly says different.

I once dated a man who had a son a year younger than my daughter. When his young son was 5 we all went to cheer for him at his karate tournament. After, when he won a silver medal it was clear, no matter what his Dad said, his look and lack of contact spoke louder, saying-

“Why didn’t you win the gold?”

It broke my heart.

My mother mastered it. With one look I knew exactly what she thought of my hair, clothes, weight, friends, makeup, accomplishments. . . Not one word was ever uttered but the meaning was always clear.

This was the battle we’d play out our entire lives. Yet a look of approval, a sparkle in her eye, knowing she was there no matter what, sent me to places I never thought possible. Encouraged me to achieve options not usually considered for women at that time- traveling around Europe on my own, applying to medical school and ultimately opening a private medical practice.

That old adage – a picture is worth a thousand words- is so true. Especially when our words can easily contradict what our body language is portraying. Like eating a lemon, we can’t cover up our immediate response. We can learn to overcome that initial reaction or bury it beneath a strong will, but the essence of how we truly feel always comes through. Because that’s truth. And truth can’t be manipulated or wished away. As children when we put our heads in a discarded box, we’re sure no one can see us even when our bodies are clearly visible. As adults we know the reality.

Most times we aren’t even aware of these actions.

As providers we can’t expect patients to share their needs when we’re constantly typing into our computers and ignoring them.

While in conversation, how often do people cross their arms as a means of setting boundaries or displaying displeasure?

Turning away or refusing to look at who we are talking to.

Clutching our toddler tightly while verbalizing it’s OK to leave and have fun at camp (been there, done that).

Saying we’re proud of someone’s accomplishments while smirking.

Children promising they’ll honor curfew while rolling their eyes.

We all need to think about our non verbal cues. Do they match our words, our actions?
Too often I’ve seen friends, family, patients, and myself, cause irreparable harm to relationships because we couldn’t see the disparity.

The only way to stop? Take a step back and look at the reaction you’re getting. Is it different than you expected? Be mindful of how you’re sitting, standing, facing. Does it coincide with your words?

If not, take a minute to acknowledge your behavior, and see why. Then find ways to resolve that discrepancy. Otherwise, that form of communication may cause consequences none of us could possibly expect.

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