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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


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  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.