“The Quiet Word”Non-Verbal Communication in the Mediation Process Roger McGrath MII Conference 12 October 2019
Non-Verbal Communication in the Mediation Process • Mediation is essentially a communicative process. At its core is the transfer of understanding, through language, signs and codes, from one person or group to another person or group.
Non-Verbal Communication • Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) is the term used to describe the transmission by the body of signs and codes that are detected, deciphered and understood (or misinterpreted) by others, either consciously or unconsciously.
Uses of Von-verbal Communication • To support language • To replace words or phrases • To express emotions • To control or regulate conversations • To display membership of a group • In ceremony and ritual • For a society to define itself publicly
Forms of Non-verbal Communication • Haptics/Bodily Contact • Physical appearance • Kinesics
Forms of Non-verbal Communication • Facial Expression • Spatial Behaviour • Paralanguage
Forms of Non-verbal Communication • Occulesics • Environmental details • Chronemics • Olfactis
Haptics - Bodily Contact Haptics refers the use of touch in communication situations. This category consists of physical contact such as handshakes and patting. Whom we touch and where and when we touch them can convey important messages about relationships. The meaning of touch, according to Argyle is, 'that an interpersonal bond is being offered or established’
Haptics – Bodily Contact Within social interaction touch can establish and signals 'liking, affiliation, comfort and intimacy. Accordingly, touch is positively linked to a party's ability to influence.’ Madonik believes that the handshake should be part of the greeting routine and that the mediator should match the handshake of the other party.
Physical Appearance This form of nonverbal communication refers to the attributes of image and presentation of self. Appearance can be divided into two categories; those aspects under voluntary control – clothes, bodily paint and adornment – and those less controllable – hair, skin, height etc. Appearance sends messages about personality, social status and, particularly, conformity.
Physical Appearance The choice of dress a mediator makes is important as it sends out messages to the participants on the type of person they are dealing withor the type of process they are entering.
Kinesics/Body Movement- Gestures Kinesics includes all bodily movement except touching, for example, head nods, posture and gestures. Head nods are mainly used in interaction management, particularly in turn-taking in speech. One nod may give the other permission to carry on speaking; rapid nods may indicate a wish to speak.
Kinesics/Body Movement- Gestures Posture defines the way of sitting, standing and lying. These are frequently concerned with interpersonal attitudes: friendliness, hostility, superiority or inferiority can all be indicated by posture.
Kinesics/Body Movement- Gestures Posture can also indicate emotional state, particularly the degree of tension or relaxation. Posture is less well controlled than facial expression: anxiety that does not show on the face may well be given away by posture. Gestures involve the hand and arm as main transmitters, but gestures of the legs, feet and head are also important. They are usually closely co-ordinated with speech and supplement verbal communication.
Kinesics/Body Movement- Gestures Several other commentators suggest that the best way to develop rapport is through use of body movements and gestures that mirror or match those to whom the mediator is speaking. Lee outlines two types of physiological movements that a mediator can use for this purpose.
Kinesics/Body Movement- Gestures Firstly, matching or mirroring, that is copying some of the party's movements; including gestures, posture, and facial expression. Secondly, the more subtle cross-over mirroring which requires the mediator to copy a movement pattern of the other party with a similar but different pattern for example breathing with a sway of the finger. Madonik also advocates the use of mirroring going so far as to suggest matching breathing rates.
Facial Expression Facial expressions play a significant role in social interaction. It has been said that the face is the most intricate and complex signalling system humans possess and that facial expressions of emotion are universal. Facial expressions may be broken down into the sub-codes of eyebrow position, eye and mouth shape and nostril size.
Facial Expression • Macroexpressions occur when a single emotion arises and there is no attempt to hide it. Such expressions typically last between 0.5 to 4 seconds on the face and are normally relatively easy to recognise.
Facial Expression • Microexpressions, on the other hand, occur much more quickly than macroexpressions and, in Matsumoto's view, occur so fast that most people cannot see or recognize them in real time. He proposes that such microexpressions are likely signs of an attempt to conceal an emotion.
Facial Expression The face is, arguably, 'the seat of the greatest amount of information that is conveyed nonverbally.' It behoves the mediator to keep a close watch on the facial expressions displayed by the parties. Starr and Page suggest that a mediator must be astute to what a person's facial expression is conveying. They also caution the mediator to beware of displaying any feelings they may have themselves, 'even when surprised, the mediator should not flinch or raise an eyebrow.'
Spatial Behaviour/Proxemics The term proxemics is also used as a term to describe the use of personal space. Proximity consists of the various actions corresponding to the use of personal space, i.e., how closely we approach someone can give a message about our relationship. Different distances usually convey different meanings; in general the shorter the distance the closer the relationship.
Spatial Behaviour/Proxemics Orientation defines the direction where a person is turned to. How we angle ourselves in relation to others is another way of sending messages about relationships. This can also convey information about our point of interest, or, focus. Facing someone can indicate either intimacy or aggression; being at 90 degrees to another indicates a co-operative stance.
Spatial Behaviour/Proxemics Apart from the greeting phase of the mediation process spatial behaviour is normally confined to the seating arrangements of the parties and the mediator. Seating arrangements and spacing can, Peters suggests, affect the mediations atmosphere'; helping 'open lines of communication or balance power disparities.'
Spatial Behaviour/Proxemics The ideal shape of table for mediation is round, which according to Madonik, 'sends a strong nonverbal message of mediator neutrality and party equality.'
Paralanguage Paralanguage is the non-verbal audio part of speech and includes the use of voice in communication. Sometimes described as Vocalics, these non-verbal clues are to be found in a speaker’s voice. Non-verbal aspects of speech contain prosodic and paradigmatic codes. The former is linked to speech (e.g., timing, pitch, and loudness).
Paralanguage Paradigmatic codes on the other hand are independent of the speech and indicate information about the speaker. Tone volume, personal voice quality, accent, emotion, speed and speech errors indicate the speaker’s emotional state, personality, class, social status, way of viewing the listener and so on. Non-verbal vocalisations are an essential part of communications as they can significantly change the meaning of the message.
Paralanguage Vocal qualities can carry more meaning than the actual words that are spoken. Tone of voice, pitch emphasis, inflection, volume, rate of speech and pronunciation clarify meaning, express emotion and indicate the attitude of the speaker towards others.
Paralanguage Madonik believes that in mediation the interpretation of messages is typically more dependent on the tone attached to the words than the words themselves. It is suggested that a mediator should be highly aware of their own voice; maturity, credibility, professionalism and calmness can all be suggested by use of a deep steady tone. This is particularly important as often the parties model the tone set by the mediator.
Occulesics This term refers to eye movement and eye contact, e.g., gaze. Eye movement and eye contact depict the focus, direction and duration of gaze in relation to other participants. Fiske is of the view that '[W]hen, how often, and for how long we meet other people’s eyes is a way of sending very important messages about relationships, particularly how dominant or affiliative we wish the relationship to be.'
Occulesics In the Western world making eye contact at the outset of a verbal statement indicates a wish to dominate the listener, to make him or her pay attention; eye contact towards the end of or after a verbal statement indicates a more equal relationship, to get feedback and to see how the listener is reacting.
Occulesics However, it should be noted that there are differences between cultures regarding the interpretation and appropriateness of eye contact. For instance people from Japan direct their gaze to the throat and lower their eyes as a mark of respect. In Asia it is preferred to have indirect eye contact, where prolonged eye contact may be interpreted as a sign of bad manners or even aggression.
Occulesics Eye contact is normally associated with a positive relationship while lack mutual gaze indicates relational difficulties or discomfort.Notwithstanding cultural idiosyncrasies Tolentino advises mediators to make good eye contact with the parties and attempt to look at everyone.
Environmental Details This term is used to define the appearance of surroundings providing contextual cues. These include artefacts that can be used and manipulated within the environment, such as furniture and décor
Environmental Details Selecting the right environment in which to hold a mediation could, according to Paula Young, be the 'most important decision made by a mediator'.
Chronemics Chronemics involves the use and perception of time. Of significance to interpersonal communications is punctuality or lack of thereof. Arriving at 10.30 for a meeting scheduled for 10.00 for instance indicates an attitude towards that meeting or person being met. Perceptions of time differ from person to person and from culture to culture.
Chronemics Regarding how people deal with time Starr and Page differentiate between those who are monochromic, that is they prefer to do one thing at a time and pay considerable attention to deadlines and schedules and those who are polychromic who don't worry about schedules.
Olfactis The non-verbal communicative effect of one’s scents and odours, e.g., perfumes, body odour is referred to by the term olfactis.
Olfactis Madonik suggests that mediators should check the air quality of the room in advance of mediation. Paula Young refers to a mediator who bakes chocolate chip cookies just before the parties are expected to arrive at her office, thus filling the air with the scent of this childhood scent.
Listening Sometimes termed as the 'neglected skill', listening very often takes a subsidiary role in communications training courses where the emphasis is put on improving the transmission of messages to the detriment of understanding those messages.
Listening Stanton lists the results that effective listening produces; it encourages others to become better listeners; it gives the listener all the information that the speaker possesses; it can improve relationships; it aids in the resolution of problems; it allows for a better understanding of people.
Listening • Some believe that the ability to listen with empathy, 'may be the most important attribute of interveners who succeed in gaining the trust and cooperation of parties to intractable conflicts and other disputes with high emotional content.'
Listening Stephen R. Covey writing in his renowned book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is adamant that in order to interact effectively with anyone, to get to a place where you can influence that person, you must first need to understand that person. The way to do this he suggests is by using empahtic listening, which he describes as, 'listening to get inside another person's frame of reference, you look through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.
Silence 'Sometimes waiting through that silence is what a person needs to feel heard.' Silence as we have seen previously is a component of paralanguage. If used correctly, in a constructive manner, silences can improve and support communication between parties in mediation. Such silences, 'create comfortable spaces within the discussion and overall relationship to reflect, empathise and gain greater insight into one's own emotions, thoughts and actions, as well as the counterparties' emotions, thoughts and actions.'.
Silence Allowing a silence when the circumstances are right is, according to Wilson, 'to discover the value of saying nothing.' Cohen agrees as he writes, '[O]ften the most powerful intervention a mediator can make is to sit attentively and say nothing.