We all know how significant the slightest gesture can influence the outcome of a trial. As a Certified Florida Mediator who previously spent many hours in the courtroom, this is a topic close to my heart. Much has been said on this topic and I won’t bore you with a recital of the many pundits who opine on the subject. Suffice it to say that many of the masters of body language agree that facial expressions far outweigh the other parts of the body (hands, posture, legs and arms) in influencing positive or negative reactions. So, clearly, in the world of video-conferencing we must stay on-guard 100% of the time.
Some of the basic rules are so obvious, but tend to slip from us while in the course of a hearing. Don’t grimace, roll your eyes, make snide comments, dress “down” for the hearing, etc. That is the easy stuff.
But there is some nuance that I’d like to discuss. Keep your eyes focused on the screen unless you are taking notes. If you happen to work with two screens (as I do), you can do a little experiment. Look at the secondary screen for a moment and glance back to your primary screen to see how clearly it shows your lack of engagement. The primary screen will show your eyes looking elsewhere, just as if you were meeting in person. Not a good look! I know there is a great temptation to look elsewhere, but the person or persons you are working with will pick up on this and realize you are not paying attention.
“Blink, a nonfiction work by Malcolm Gladwell, explores the psychology of snap decisions and quick thinking, illuminating how subconscious biases affect the way we think and behave. Gladwell introduces the idea of “thin slicing”—using little slivers of information about a person to form a larger opinion. The human mind has two decision-making mechanisms. One is extremely fast, it is the one that does its best to keep us safe. The other is more rational. The key to success is being able to harness the correct part of the brain at the right time.”
Gladwell points out that we all have numerous facial muscles, some voluntary, some involuntary. As children we are able to discern between the two and intuit when someone is a truth-teller or not, a threat or safe harbor. For example, when someone “forces” a smile, it doesn’t seem genuine. Catch someone laughing or crying and you can sense the genuine nature of their expression. This type of intuition grows with us into adulthood. It provides valuable information when you meet someone and make a gut decision on whether they are trustworthy or not.
The bottom line is to pay attention, listen carefully and avoid false expressions of emotion. Don’t fall for the false feeling of protection just because you are separated from your parties by a computer screen. Conduct yourself as if they are in the room with you.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. Contact me(or) to schedule a complimentary 30 minute zoom telephonic meeting.