The Caregiver's Journey

Nonverbal Communication

What you might see:

  • Having a hard time understanding common nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expressions, hand gestures)
  • Standing too close or too far from those he or she is speaking to 
  • Uncomfortable number/type of physical contacts 
  • Body language that doesn’t “match” what is said 
  • Facial expressions that don’t “match” what is said
  • Poor eye contact
  • Staring at others during conversation

How you can help:

  • Politely ask your service member/veteran to stand closer or further away.
  • Explain the behavior is making you feel uncomfortable.
  • Tell your service member/veteran you are confused by the difference in body language and spoken message. Briefly explain what you saw and heard.
  • Ask him or her to stop any distracting motions.
  • Role play the right way to behave in a particular setting. Work with the healthcare team to practice appropriate behavior. This will help decrease behavior that causes problems.
  • Talk to your family member about how to act in certain situations, before he or she is in those situations.
  • Give feedback on the right amount of eye contact to keep with another person. Praise all improvements.
  • Decide on a signal to indicate problematic behavior.