Positive communication behaviors1

Studies have linked certain verbal behaviors with patient satisfaction, compliance, understanding, and a positive view of their relationship with their health care professional. According to a 2002 study by Beck et al published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, positive verbal behaviors include1:

  • Empathy
  • Courtesy
  • Friendliness
  • Reassurance
  • Support
  • Encouragement
  • Respect for patients’ questions
  • Explanation-giving
  • Positive reinforcement

Terms to avoid2 

Research has shown that word choice plays an important role when discussing weight management. In a 2003 study by Wadden et al, patients with obesity ranked the following list of terms as “undesirable” or “very undesirable”2:

  • Unhealthy body weight
  • Fatness
  • Excess fat
  • Unhealthy BMI
  • Heaviness
  • Large size
  • Weight problem
  • Obesity


Also in Professional Education:


Related Information

Additional Resources

Find professional organizations related to obesity, treatment guidelines, and more.

The Weight Conversation

This video provides tips on productive discussions about weight with your patients.


  1. Beck RS, Daughtridge R, Sloane PD. Physician-patient communication in the primary care office: a systematic review. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2002;15:25-38.
  2. Wadden TA, Didie E. What’s in a name? Patients’ preferred terms for describing obesity. Obes Res. 2003;11(9):1140-1146.