Body Language Training

The #1 Way to Improve Your Practice

Nonverbal communication is unfortunately not taught in most universities. Body language cue training has been relegated to mock trial or future litigators. Current learning remains focused on what we say rather than how we say it, even though the famous Albert Mehrabian study at UCLA found spoken words account for only 7 percent of our in-person communication. Tone of voice and visual body language cues make up the rest. Busy professionals are left to fend for themselves when it comes to interpreting nonverbal behavior.

Since nonverbal behavior is such an important part of communication, learning to improve this type of communication has far reaching positive impact on law firms. The WBAI is partnering with advanced body language expert, Alison Henderson, to bring nonverbal behavior training to the membership. Ms. Henderson is founder of Moving Image Consulting and is one of 26 Certified Movement Pattern Analysts worldwide specially trained to observe nonverbal behavior signals which connect to the decision-making process of the brain.

It is important to realize the impact of nonverbal communication outside of the courtroom since so few matters make it to court. In the 2018 American Bar Association Magazine article, Persuasion Through Body Language In (and Out of) the Courtroom, attorney Kathleen Balthrop Havener stated, “In the courtroom, the boardroom, the conference room, and the office, the messages our bodies convey provide information to our listeners that reinforces or detracts from what we say. If we want to be more persuasive communicators, we must master certain aspects of presence and performance that, although they may seem to have little to do with speech and language, have everything to do with communication. Our physical cues (or miscues) bear serious consideration–indeed, even practice.”

Body language isn’t only useful for personal presentation. Attorney Jay M. Tiftickjian in his article, Four Strategies for Criminal Jury Selection that do not Involve Candles, Magic Powders, or other Voodoo Supplies, addresses the need to read others’ behavior. He states, “People often say what they think they are expected to say rather than what they actually believe. However, because people are not always aware of their own nonverbal communications, body language is often more honest than mere words, which are consciously chosen to accomplish the speaker’s objective.” Understanding nonverbal behavior allows attorneys to see why their gut is telling them that someone is less than authentic or truthful.

Observing cues from others is equally or more useful when it comes to persuasion and effective communication. Alison teaches how to read others and change your verbal and nonverbal content to communicate in the way others need to hear it. Clients, jurors, witnesses and colleagues should walk out of meetings being curious as to why and how the meeting went so smoothly!

Alison’s informal research of attorneys has brought several top concerns to light:

  1. Business development. Finding new clients through effective networking and relationship building shouldn’t only be relegated to the partners. Train everyone to be more effective when meeting and greeting. Clients will join more quickly and stay longer. Be the firm which is top of mind when attorneys need to make a referral. When everyone in the firm is responsible for its success, there is more “skin in the game” which can help with #2.
  2. Attorney retention. Large and small firms struggle with retention for many reasons. Improving communication can make an attorney more effective when asking for what she wants and needs from a firm during performance reviews. Her only option shouldn’t have to be going solo. Providing training for young attorneys can stop the cycle of bouncing from firm to firm. By providing leadership and development skills (like advanced body language training), they will be more affective while working for you and will be more loyal to the firm and less likely to jump ship.
  3. Lack of women leaders. Until parity in all aspects is reached, understanding and using the differences in male and female body language patterns will give women more confidence and power. Many of the current biases against female behavior are addressed and mitigated. Nonverbal skills can be one pillar in addressing the attrition rate of female attorneys.

The true bonus of understanding nonverbal behavior is that the meaning of the signals you read remain the same whether you are observing a witness, juror, judge, colleague, opposing counsel or client. Furthermore, the signals are the same for business and personal interactions!

Here is to a great year of growth in all areas of your practice! Feel free to contact Alison to bring her into your committee meetings. Look forward to video tips, conversations and more resources to come.

Alison Henderson is founder of Moving Image Consulting—a firm dedicated to improving leadership and communication, providing unique, practical insight into the meaning and impact of non-verbal communication–body movement, posture shifts and gestures. As one of 26 Certified Movement Pattern Analysts in the world, Alison brings a unique awareness of what visual cues reveal about the decision-making and action patterns of individuals. She is on mission to bring the world out of their devices and into clear, effective communication!