While traveling in Australia, primarily for holidays, those who know me know I always manage to do some work too! With that said, last week I gave a talk at Southern Cross University's Lismore campus which was also broadcasted to two other campuses (hooray for technology!).
The topic was on basic nonverbal verbal communication- how to use it properly and also how to identify certain gestures used by others. I will not go into the specifics other than emphasizing I speak from the perspective of identifying gestures as it not being definitive but rather based on my understanding of nonverbal communication from my experiences, my research and the research conducted by others. Be weary if those who say, "Liars do this," or "When someone does this, it means that."
While giving the talk and speaking with people afterwards, it is always fun to see how they will stop mid sentence to re-arrange their arms or their posture and laugh while saying "oops". Although this particular talk was for a general audience, I am a firm believer that regardless of our roles in conflict resolution including as mediators, negotiators, ombudsman, or coaches we must be aware of what it is we are doing. Do you turn towards each party while they are speaking? Do we rest our head on our hands if we are not interested in what is being said? Do we notice the person touching the back of their neck during each time a certain topic is discussed?
When looking at nonverbal communication while engaging in the particular work you do in conflict resolution, the following might help when looking within:
1) Are you aware that you are encoding a nonverbal message?
2) Is the message being decoded they way you intended?
In the process of identifying the nonverbal messages of others, ask yourself:
1) Am I picking up the nonverbal cues of the party(s)?
2) Am I doing it accurately?
3) If yes to either of those, what do I do next?
I plan to right more about this in future posts, so hopefully you find this of interest to yourself and our field!
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.)