Medical visits are often less effective and satisfying than they would be if doctors and patients better understood the communication most needed for attainment of mutual health goals. Here, professors of medicine and psychology join forces to help us understand this vital issue, and the means to best facilitate communication that brings more effective medical care and happier, healthier consumers. The verbal and nonverbal exchanges that take place between doctor and patient affect both participants, and can result in a range of positive or negative psychological reactions - including comfort, alarm, irritation, or resolve. The authors set out specific principles and recommendations for improving doctor-patient relationships. They describe the process of communication, analyse social and psychological factors that colour doctor-patient exchanges, and detail changes that can benefit both parties.