For physicians, good body language conveys a lot more than friendliness--it can play a role in whether a doctor gets sued, according to research conducted by a Stanford University professor in 2002.
In the experiment described in Forbes, medical students listened to audio tapes from patient encounters with doctors who were sued for malpractice even though the recordings were "content filtered," meaning that the actual words were inaudible. Based on hearing low-frequency garble alone, the students picked up on vocal tones that conveyed dominance, hostility and a lack of empathy--which most of the doctors who'd been sued had in common.
A more recent post from the MGMA In Practice blog emphasized the importance of voice tone. "A change in pitch indicates nervousness and insecurity; a lower pitch indicates strength," noted Tonya Reiman, a body language expert, during the MGMA 2014 Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference in Orlando, Fla.
To strike the right balance between coming off as overbearing or incompetent, use breathing exercises and practice modulating your voice, advised Forbes contributor Carol Kinsey Goman.
Another nonverbal skill to perfect is a warm, not too aggressive, handshake, according to Reiman. The best technique, she said, is to aim for palm-to-palm contact with your thumb up. The person who extends his or her hand first is seen as dominant, but flipping the other person's hand over may be an unconscious way to seek control. When you meet people, it's important to note these subtle cues coming from them as well.
Most importantly, Remain encouraged MGMA attendees to "Come off autopilot and become more self-aware" by listening to the subtle signs of body language.