Thursday, November 4, 2010

Communication for the sexes

Over at The Jury Expert, Laura Dominic looked at the different styles of communication that men and women use in the courtroom. Ms. Dominic points out that it's not what you say, but how you say it that conveys authority.
Whether you win or lose, of course, depends on the facts, but how your message is received by the jury, judge, mediator, or the arbitrator plays a role. When it comes to communication behaviors, there are verbal and nonverbal elements that affect credibility, and there are general differences in the way men and women communicate. Some pose advantages for each gender, and some pose disadvantages. The good news is that there are teachable/learnable verbal and nonverbal elements of presentation that drive credibility, and a lawyer's credibility is a key component in persuasion.
Ms. Dominic looks at the differences between men and women in both verbal and nonverbal communication and makes some interesting observations.

She says that men are conditioned while young to use words that are more "task-oriented" than women. A male attorney is more likely to say "The point is..." or "I need you to..." while a female attorney will attempt to build a better rapport with the jury by using "We" and "I see." She also points out that men are more likely to use statements as leading questions while women tend to make it more of a question. She also points out that women  are more likely to use intensifiers and hedgers such as "Very," "I think," and "Maybe" than men.

While building rapport might be a better path to getting the jury on your side, using intensifiers and hedgers will hurt your credibility.

Ms. Dominic also points out differences between men and women in regard to eye contact, voice tone, and body and head position. She says that women are more likely to look someone in the eye - until they come into conflict - than men. Interestingly enough, men and women assume an open body position at different times: men when feeling uncomfortable and women when feeling comfortable. Women seem to use nonverbal cues to indicate interest more so than men.
Each of us can benefit by identifying those traits that hinder our credibility, and focusing on changing behaviors that will increase our effectiveness. When we understand the messages that our verbal and nonverbal communication cues send, we can begin to hone the traits that negatively impact our credibility and refine those that capitalize on our strengths. 
Next time you're in the courtroom, watch how the people around you are communicating, both verbally and nonverbally, and see if you can pick out of the behaviors noted by Ms. Dominic.

No comments: