As we have discussed in previous posts, nonverbal communication plays an important role in the mediation process. When one party is speaking, it is crucial for the mediator to observe what he is not saying — through his body language.
Nonverbal communication cues can play five roles:
- Repetition: of the message the party is making verbally
- Contradiction: of the message the party is trying to convey
- Substitution: in place of a verbal message
- Complementing: or adding to a verbal message
- Accenting: or underlining a verbal message*
An experienced mediator will be watching the parties’ faces for what could be the real message. Unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal and the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures.
Body movements and posture
By paying close attention to the parties’ posture, bearing, stance, and other subtile movements, a skilled mediator will be able to learn a wealth of information.
Since the meaning of gestures (waving, pointing, etc… ) can be very different across cultures and regions, an experienced mediator will discuss any potentially confusing gestures with the parties so as to avoid misinterpretation.
During the mediation process, eye contact (or the lack thereof) is an especially important type of nonverbal communication. Through visual contact, a confident neutral can determine many things about the parties’ feelings toward an issue; including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction.
As any skilled mediator knows firsthand, it’s not just what the parties say, it’s how they say it. Tone and inflection, sounds that convey understanding, timing and pace all convey a message that an experienced mediator will interpret.
Mediation is a crucial part of the litigation process. Working with a seasoned neutral who understands the human condition as well as the case, simplifies the process.
Bruce A. Friedman is a mediator with a national practice. With years of litigation experience behind him, he understands the goals of the mediation process and will do his best to ensure that the needs of both parties are met, justly and efficiently. For more information on the mediation services that Bruce A. Friedman provides, check out his website at http://www.FriedmanMediation.com or call him at (310) 201-0010.
Source: The Importance of Effective Communication, Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D.