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Body Language In Mediation

by Jeff Thompson
February 2010

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson

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As a mediator, and conflict specialist, I believe it is incredibly important to be mindful of my own nonverbal communication actions as well as the non-verbal cues used by the parties present.
One thing I have taken recent interest in learning more is the different nonverbal actions and what they generally mean. I use “generally” as just like there is not a concrete set of mediation rules and steps for every case, so is the same for nonverbal actions.


With that said, I think certain cues and actions have a general meaning which could at the very least raise awareness in me that I might need to ask more questions or ask for clarification. For this post, I refer to nonverbal actions and cues related to body movements in relation to what the person is saying to see if they are not in sync.

For anyone that watches the Bill O’Reilly show on FOx News, one of my favorite segments is when he has Tonya Reiman on. She is an expert on body language and Bill has her on to breakdown what certain movements and actions mean with people in the news or people he recently interviewed. I find it enjoyable for entertainment purposes while I also I see the value of how it can relate to the work we do in mediation.

With that in mind, I was watching this past Sunday on CBS’s Face The Nation with host Bob Schieffer interviewing Vice President Joe Biden. Towards the end, Schieffer asked VP Biden if he thought Former President Bush deserved credit for some of the positive results in Iraq. All I will say is notice what he says (yes or no) while also noticing his head movements (nodding yes or no).
You can view the video above, and if you want to go straight to the segment, fast forward it by dragging the bar to the 16:30 section.


After watching that, if you find it of interest, try being mindful during your next mediation session if a person says one thing yet there body does something else. I think some contradictory or overt body language actions are easy to spot- shaking the head in agreement or disagreement, sighing, and smiling yet there are others like in the above video I think are subtle and at the very least interesting. Looking deeper (maybe with a discerning mind, then again maybe not!), as the mediator it might be cause to ask some more probing issues.

Enjoy!

Want to find more on body language?

Visit the following:

Tonya Reiman's Site: http://www.tonyareiman.com/
Reiman's book [here]
What Everybody Is Saying", a book by a ex-FBI agent [Here]
The Definitive Book of Body Language [here]


Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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