Dietitians and Nutritionists Need People Skills

Many jobs in the nutrition field involve working with people on a regular basis. This work, which includes consultation, teaching and community outreach, requires you to be out and about having constant contact with people.

Consulting with individuals means you will need to develop the necessary skills for working well with them. These skills can be applied when working with your professional contacts or with patients and clients. Perhaps you are naturally a people-person, but others of us may have to work to perfect the skills necessary for working well with others. Either way, it is possible successfully relate to people and improve the chance that others will have a positive perception of you and the work you do.

Communication. You must have excellent communication skills to work well with other people. Say what you mean and mean what you say with the respect that others deserve. Be direct when asking questions and in answering them. Answer emails and respond to phone messages. Also pay attention to the non-verbal communication you are sending. Arrive for meetings or consultations on time, avoid crossing your arms during discussions, sit up straight, and directly face the person with whom you are corresponding.

Conflict resolution. Conflicts arise in any relationship including those in the workplace. Bring those topics to the front for discussion and be open-minded to resolving them. In some cases you may have to agree to disagree, but also agree not to let it affect your professional relationship. Conflicts may also occur when working with clients. Get to the root of the problem quickly before resentment has time to build which can lead to further problems.

Knowledge of behavior change. Most nutrition jobs aim to help people change their eating habits and improve their health. In order to help them do this, it is important to understand the theories of health promotion. These theories give us insight into how people change behaviors and the motivation they have to make these changes. The Transtheoretical Model and the Health Belief Model are two examples. Study these theories and find ways to apply them to your work.

Delegate and collaborate. We can all get stressed and irritable when we have too much on our plates.

When you work in a nutrition job that has a supervisory role, or if you oversee the work of an intern, it is your job to delegate your responsibilities so that you can focus on the most important aspects of your job. By doing so you will also be giving those you oversee more responsibility and helping them develop their own set of nutrition job skills. In addition, it is wise to collaborate with colleagues who have specialties in different areas of health which can benefit your work in nutrition.

Practice what you preach. Jobs in the nutrition and health field come with high expectations. If you are going to advise another person to eat a healthy food or change a related habit, you have to be willing to do it yourself. Patients and clients can see right through hypocritical behavior. For this reason, you should spend time thinking about your nutrition philosophy and the types of qualities you wish to bring to the job. Keep your message consistent, eat a healthy diet and exercise so that you can serve as a positive example for those you are trying to help.

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