I think it important to state at the beginning of this article that I am not suggesting you analyze your patients or family members. This is not what hospice chaplaincy is about. We work daily with living human documents. My purpose is to provide you with clues and cues to assist you in your approach to pastoral care. This affects your emotional intelligence which will also affect your pastoral care relationship with patients and family members.
With that stated, I want to provide clues and cues dealing with your observation of eyes, mouth and voice, posture, and touching.
While direct eye contact is good and shows interest, if you as the Chaplain become too intense with your eyes you will send a message of dominance and intimidation. Don’t do that. If the person you are working with does not keep eye contact or looks away frequently, you have lost them. Stop what you are talking about and regroup. Change the subject to something they do have interest in. You have heard of the term “brow-beat”? Don’t ever continue to talk about a subject in pastoral care because you feel they “must” hear what you are saying. Pastoral care is much more patient than that.
MOUTH AND VOICE
If the person you are talking to presents with lips that are pursed or tight, it may mean they disapprove of what you are saying or at least not trust what you are saying. If the person you are talking to is loud, it may be they are angry, frustrated, upset, or stressed out. May this call to mind your training on suffering. Loud is often what suffering sounds like. If they are talking softly, it could be they are uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even shy. Be mindful that if someone asks you a question and answers it themselves they are definitely telling you something about themselves. Be sure to listen and hear.
These comments have as much to do with your posture as to the posture of the one you are speaking with. Arms crossed and legs turned away from you is a closed posture which means you have work to do to overcome a barrier or two. If you see the person hunched over with hands supporting the head, that person might be emotionally weary and in need of your support.
Touching is a “touchy” subject. Be cautious. It is a natural thing for a Chaplain to reach out to touch a patient or grieving/upset family member. Keep in mind that a touch might not be welcome. The patient or family member may misunderstand the intent of the touch, especially if the patient’s condition in any way decreases their understanding and perception. It is advised to ask before you touch a shoulder or hold a hand. And, you have to set boundaries about people touching you. Please read the informative site http://www.livescience.com/20801-personal-space.html.
Hopefully, you gained some insight into cues and clues. Don’t overdo it and over-analyze people. Just know that there are behaviors and postures that can give you a bit of understanding where people are in their emotions. Be yourself, be open, and be compassionate. That communicates well and we know that people on a hospice journey need Chaplains who care. Blessings!