More Than Words Can Say: The Importance of Body Language in Veterinary Medicine

Written by Jade Velasquez, LVT, Practice Manager
cloud based veterinary software

As veterinary professionals, we interact with dozens of people every day. Our day is filled with establishing new relationships, conveying treatment plans to owners regarding their pets health, detailing findings and sometimes giving bad news to pet owners. We often must do these things while rushing to get to the next appointment or before heading into the surprise exploratory surgery. When we are having these conversations, we must remember that the client doesn’t always just hear the words we say. They are looking at and processing body language and nonverbal cues that we display. How do we ensure our body language and tone are conveying a message that is received well, despite the high stress environment of the profession?


Being present. Every time.

Every appointment brings its own personality and message. We can put our best foot forward and use every skill in our arsenal to do what is best for our patient. That is a lot of pressure. Before going into the exam room, take a deep breath. Try to let go of some of that tension and put your focus on the client, patient, and interaction in front of you. Relax your body and release the energy from the previous appointment or the never-ending task list in your mind. Remember that the stress we carry can be transferred to the people and pets around us.


Be Aware of Your Facial Expressions.

The pandemic and mask wearing gave us a small break from having to be mindful of what our face is doing during interactions. As we obtain a history we were once able to hide how our jaw dropped hearing that Fluffy has had a strict diet of hotdogs with a weekly treat of eggs over easy. Being mindful of how our face may respond to information given to you is crucial. At the end of a day having a poker face can ensure your clients don’t feel judged or defensive when sharing details. Empathetic head nods and good eye contact can soften the blow of discussing the nutritional benefits of a healthy diet.


When You Want to Puff Up, Go Back to Neutral Body Language.

When dealing with a frustrated client, you may notice as their voice gets louder, you can feel your face start to flush. Our muscles in our shoulders may tense up and we may posture. Sometimes we may cross our arms or even talk with our hands during a tense exchange. These are normal reactions, but they won’t diffuse this tense situation. Focus on having neutral body language, keeping your arms relaxed and at your sides and shoulders relaxed. Practice active listening while they express their frustrations. Repeat back to them what you are hearing their concerns are. Not all conflicts can be resolved, but we can use our body language to hopefully avoid escalation.


Say Cheese!

Smiling and maintaining good eye contact are ways we can incorporate open body language and nonverbal cues in the exam room. Make sure not to overdo it but pepper your conversations with an occasional smile. Work on maintaining good eye contact for a few seconds at a time while discussing important aspects of your exam.


Ultimately the body language and cues we use in our day-to-day interactions are just as important as the information we pass on. Being mindful and open will continue to build trust and will help convey information in the kindest and most digestible way possible. By using every skill we have available, we can truly advocate the best for our patients.


Interested to see how IDEXX Veterinary Software can improve client communication?  Book a chat with a software expert.