Body Language in Mediation

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(NOTE: Click this link to the see the video clip- the above video does not allow you to fast forward)

As a mediator, and conflict specialist, I believe it is incredibly important to be mindful of my own nonverbal communication actions as well as the non-verbal cues used by the parties present.
One thing I have taken recent interest in learning more is the different nonverbal actions and what they generally mean. I use “generally” as just like there is not a concrete set of mediation rules and steps for every case, so is the same for nonverbal actions.

With that said, I think certain cues and actions have a general meaning which could at the very least raise awareness in me that I might need to ask more questions or ask for clarification. For this post, I refer to nonverbal actions and cues related to body movements in relation to what the person is saying to see if they are not in sync.

For anyone that watches the Bill O’Reilly show on FOx News, one of my favorite segments is when he has Tonya Reiman on. She is an expert on body language and Bill has her on to breakdown what certain movements and actions mean with people in the news or people he recently interviewed. I find it enjoyable for entertainment purposes while I also I see the value of how it can relate to the work we do in mediation.

With that in mind, I was watching this past Sunday on CBS’s Face The Nation with host Bob Schieffer interviewing Vice President Joe Biden. Towards the end, Schieffer asked VP Biden if he thought Former President Bush deserved credit for some of the positive results in Iraq. All I will say is notice what he says (yes or no) while also noticing his head movements (nodding yes or no).
You can view the video above, and if you want to go straight to the segment, fast forward it by dragging the bar to the 16:30 section.

After watching that, if you find it of interest, try being mindful during your next mediation session if a person says one thing yet there body does something else. I think some contradictory or overt body language actions are easy to spot- shaking the head in agreement or disagreement, sighing, and smiling yet there are others like in the above video I think are subtle and at the very least interesting. Looking deeper (maybe with a discerning mind, then again maybe not!), as the mediator it might be cause to ask some more probing issues.


Want to find more on body language?

Visit the following:

Tonya Reiman's Site:
Reiman's book [here]
What Everybody Is Saying", a book by a ex-FBI agent [Here]
The Definitive Book of Body Language [here]


  1. Jeff. I tried to see the interview at the sport you suggested and couldn't find it or forward it. I will note, that it is important to also consider context. I had a mediation recently with a person that had a similar contradiction. But after reviewing the context, it appeared that the cultural context was affecting the non-verbals also. Just a thought.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. After you press the paly button, a white bar will start moving. Slide that almost all the way towards the speaker icon until you get the 16:30 minute mark.
    And i agree with you, the expression, or micro expression should not be viewed by itself but in context with the situation and what else the person saying or doing.

    Here's another great site:

  3. One of the most basic skills that I learned as a mediator was to call out body language shifts and let the participants define what they mean. For example, if a participant responds to something by sighing loudly and crossing their arms, I might reflect that by stating, "I noticed in a change in your body language just now. Could you tell me more about that?". Sometimes you get met with a, "Oh I'm just crossing my arms because it's cold in here", but other times you get, "I just can't believe they had the nerve to bring up _____...". As for more subtle clues, I agree that they can be spotted. Again, I always reflect what I hear or see and let them correct me if I'm wrong. For example, if someone verbally agrees to something in mediation, but their face suggests that they aren't really too happy about it, I may say something like, "It sounds like you're willing to go along with that idea, but I'm also sensing that you're feeling hesitant about it. Can you tell me more about that?". If I'm completely off base, they will let me know it. Usually when I'm wrong, they correct me and provide how they actually do feel which just gives me more to reflect on.


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