Why body language is important in social care

Paralinguistic signals, such as body language, tone and volume can be really helpful in understanding meaning beyond what is actually being said. This blog zooms in on the importance of body language in social care settings and explores how it can be leveraged to help you better understand your service user.


Build an environment of trust


Making sure the service user is at ease in your presence is paramount to providing good care. Displaying positive body language can help create a relaxed, zero-pressure environment. We recommend maintaining good posture, smiling frequently and making eye contact when appropriate. On the other hand, avoid any gestures that may undermine your authority as a professional, for example slouching on your chair or clock-watching. 


Reduce tension 


Knowing how to harness your body language in order to maintain power in a professional environment is always going to come in handy. This is especially true for social care where you may have to deal with the odd challenging client. In a situation where the end user is growing aggressive, it is important to reassert your dominance as the professional in the room. Avoid mirroring body language here and move with purpose (i.e. reinforce what you are saying with short, concise gestures and don’t meet aggression with aggression under any circumstances). Remain composed to show that you are the one in control. 


Understand the service user’s true feelings


Learning to analyse body language can be a great tool for understanding your client. If they’re with someone, pay attention to how they sit. Are they facing away from each other? Barely making eye contact? Is one person towering over the other? From here, you can determine the power dynamic, as well as flag any signs of abuse, discomfort or tension. The same goes for the service user’s body language towards you – if they can barely make eye contact they could be lying or simply disengaged with the session. Focus closely on repeated behaviours, rather than isolated incidents to reduce the risk of misreading body language. For example, a client who is repeatedly fidgety when talking about a specific situation would be of note, compared to a client who twiddles their thumbs on one occasion. Pay particular attention to any changes in body language as this could be indicative of a change happening in the person’s life (even if they haven’t mentioned it verbally). Any body language that seems to contradict what the client is telling you may also be worth following up on. 


Summary and final tips


Non-verbal communication is a powerful communication tool which can help improve your social work practice. Learning how to recognise where there is disparity between what a service user is saying and what their body is saying means you can provide better care and more positive outcomes. Remember to be conscious of how you are portraying and make adjustments in order to facilitate the service user’s comfort. 

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carlette Isaac

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