We often hear about nonverbal communication. It may, in many circumstances be part of or fully inclusive of a dialogue. While we speak, we also show, and I as far as I am concerned, in principle, there is nothing wrong with showing your thoughts by body language. It can be quite subtle and can actually be done with an erudite tone. A wink here, a smile there, a frown, a knowing look or gesture can all communicate as well and sometimes better than words. In the world of multitasking, nonverbal communication can deliver a message concurrent with a parallel verbal statement or ongoing discussion by some other party.
The warning I sound here is; there must be some degree of respect and patience provided for in a meeting or a mediation. I have mediated many disputes where as one party talks about the subject, another in the room becomes expressive of their disagreement with the message, or their impatience with the length of time the message is taking. Raised eyebrows, outbursts of expelled air and disturbed facial expressions can verge on bad manners.
One of the very cool aspects of training to be a lawyer is the understanding that everybody has their turn to communicate, and if the information is false or tedious, there will be a time and place for rebuttal. If the information is redundant, a polite interruption may be appropriate to indicate that that material had already been reviewed. As always, good judgment is important.
Addendum to non-verbal communication--
After completing my post on non-verbal communication, I began to focus more on the positive and constructive aspects of this form of exchanging information.
While the negatives are obvious and often creations of emotion, the craft of the constructive, is born out of a sub rosa style wit, that covertly, but accurately delivers a message to an intended party. A glance at your watch (Alex Ferguson of Manchester United) while catching the attention of the recipient of the message(referee) or any type of body language that delivers a message without engaging the whole room or disrupting the flow of anyone else’s communication moment, can lead to important directions to enhance the momentum or the value of dialogues.
In caucus, parties and the facilitator often assess the progress of a particular direction and make adjustments as necessary. With NVC, the potential is there to make some of these tweaks while the meeting is ongoing.
In a sophisticated mediation, the mediator should be able to discern the nuances of nonverbal signals and quickly incorporate their significance into the facilitative task at hand.