Body Language and Mediation
In a mediation how can you tell what the other side is thinking? Is there a secret formula? After having conducted countless mediations, I’ve come to rely on people’s body language more than anything. By learning how to “speak this language” I’ve come to understand where the parties are coming from. I sincerely contribute my success rate to this bilingualism.
Unlike court, which is by nature combative, mediation focuses on collaboration and a meeting of the minds. If one comes in using harsh words focusing on getting their message across verbally, they may lose sight of the more effective means of nonverbal communication. There have been many studies that prove that words are many times, not enough. In communications that involve highly emotional personal situations, the words we say are of less import than the tone of voice and nonverbal bodily communication.
My job is to get the parties to come to a mutual agreement. Using body language signs to make sure we stay on track has been extremely helpful. I can sense how the other party is feeling or receiving certain information from the movements they make. For example, is one party excepting what you have to say? A good indicator of rejection is if they are sitting back in their chair, crossing their legs in the opposite direction, or folding their arms across their chest. If you see these signs or others what do you do? This is my key that a new strategy or approach to present the information is needed. Or perhaps the parties need to caucus at this juncture.
Incorporating positive body language signs into the mediation can also make for a successful agreement. Smiling and showing general pleasantries can go a long way. Try to keep things in perspective. Whenever I feel like things may be going south I take a pause and try to “smile on”