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Body Language of International Negotiations

by Jeff Thompson
September 2011

Enjoy Mediation by Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson

I came across the following article recently which explored the use of body language in a laboratory setting of Chinese and Canadian participants.

The authors, Zhaleh Semnani-Azad (University of Waterloo) and Wendi L. Adair (University of Waterloo), coded six categories of behavior: posture, head movement, hand movement, eye gaze, facial expression, and how often the participant fell silent or kept talking.

The results:

The results indicated that some nonverbal cues were used by both groups to convey the same meaning. Smiling, leaning forward, and gesturing while talking were employed by both the Chinese and Canadians when trying to convey a positive and more submissive approach, and shaking the head and frowning were displayed by both to show the opposite. In attempting to project dominance, both groups were more likely to try to control the room through negative signals than positive ones.

What I find interesting is many of the traits listed as "positive and submissive" is also what previous research studies state are nonverbal cues of rapport? Is rapport building also considered not only positive but also submissive?

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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