Non-verbal communication: the importance of listening

Br J Nurs. 1997 Mar;6(5):275-9. doi: 10.12968/bjon.1997.6.5.275.


This article presents the author's personal reflection on how her nursing practice was enhanced as a result of losing her voice. Surprisingly, being unable to speak appeared to improve the nurse/patient relationship. Patients responded positively to a quiet approach and silent communication. Indeed, the skilled use of non-verbal communication through silence, facial expression, touch and closer physical proximity appeared to facilitate active listening, and helped to develop empathy, intuition and presence between the nurse and patient. Quietly 'being with' patients and communicating non-verbally was an effective form of communication. It is suggested that effective communication is dependent on the nurse's ability to listen and utilize non-verbal communication skills. In addition, it is clear that reflection on practical experience can be an important method of uncovering and exploring tacit knowledge in nursing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cues
  • Empathy
  • Facial Expression
  • Holistic Nursing
  • Humans
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*