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Do your feet betray you doctor?

As I watched the medical student take a history I noticed his scuffed shoes but more especially where his feet were pointed during the meeting. He sat with both feet on the ground but with his knees pointed towards the desk to his side, leaning away from the patient. Afterwards the patient and I agreed that this was not the best consultation. His legs were just one of several things that weren’t quite right.

We know that our faces display our feelings. During their training doctors are taught to become aware of where their patients are gazing and to study facial expression.

What is much less often the topic of any lectures or instruction is how to sit or to consider where your feet are pointed during a meeting. Just as the patient’s body language is leaking clues- so the doctor’s body language is either reinforcing the notion that they are alert and interested or that they are bored, challenged or simply in a hurry to get on to the next thing on their list.

The legs are the farthest limbs away from the brain – and therefore far from the attention of others. Because we never truly care or focus on what others do with them, we also tend to neglect what we do with ours. This neglect leaves a lot of room for the keen observer to notice hidden thoughts and attitudes that are not clearly visible anywhere else in the body.

Study Body Language

The best advice seems to be to sit with both feet on the ground pointed at the other person.

Placing both feet on the ground with a “standard” gap between them is the most basic, normal position you can think of. Just like with hands-to-the-sides posture it serves as a neutral but powerful starting point. It’s stable, focused and lacks any other nonverbal “noise” – so it’s very effective for formal and focused conversations

Study Body Language

In the context of a professional meeting there are a host of other basics.

  • Lean towards the person you are talking to but not with your hands on your thighs as if you are about to stand.
  • Don’t sit with your knees wide apart or firmly together.
  • Keep your shoes on.
  • Don’t rest your leg on your knee.
  • Don’t cross your ankles or your legs.
  • Don’t stretch your legs out in front of you or fold them under the chair.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Comments

  1. If you take care of your shoes, I think it’s more likely you’ll take care of me. Nothing obsessive – just attention to the long term.

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