The truth is I am skeptical about the alleged science of body language reading. You can tell because my arms are crossed. But I cross my arms when I don't like what someone is saying, when I'm bored, and also when I'm cold. Body language, it seems to me, is a great tool – except when it doesn’t work. It’s far from an exact science.
Still, I'm a believer – up to a point. I know that I want to believe this since every time I watch a mock jury, a potential jury being questioned during voir dire, or a seated jury, I always wonder what they are thinking. And I always wonder if I can decode what they are thinking by looking at them.
Well, here's what the best and the brightest in body language studies have to say on the topic. Our litigation consultants have tried to pull out only the most concrete examples to come up with seven great body language videos for lawyers.
1. Tips for reading a jury. This expert suggests that “I can teach you how to tell when people are lying to you.” For example, when someone is in the courtroom with a rigid hand with wide-apart fingers, this says they are terrified and will tell us the whole truth.
2. How one body language consultant read the Casey Anthony jury. As a reminder, the case ended in a conviction of Ms. Anthony, but not for the murder in question, only for lying to law enforcement. The body-language consultant said, "I'm watching which ones are noting specific details or are writing down specific details on specific types of evidence. What I'm finding is that we've got a pretty strong analytic jury pool and about seven of them or more are state jurors, and are paying specific attention towards more damning evidence against the defense."
3. How you might read a video deponent. Repetitive movements can be distracting – even for people who are telling the truth. The body language of Charlie Rose and Bill Gates, however well trained, can be seen as distracting. The challenge for the speaker is to use virtual space to identify different concepts.
4. Can you spot a liar? Theoretically, it is possible to tell from someone’s body language that he or she is lying, but this has not been scientifically proved. Such techniques are used by some litigation consultants during the voir dire process.
5. How lawyers should behave in front of the camera (or not): Expert Tonya Reiman analyzes the body language and tone used by lawyers for Drew Peterson. It serves as a reminder that as lawyers, we are always being watched during litigation - whether in the courtroom, in the hallway, in the bathroom or in front of a camera.
6. Your body language after a sidebar. Remember, it is not just the lawyers who are paying attention to body language in the courtroom. Jurors are watching too. The professionals at NITA posted this short video about how one lawyer behaved every time he wrapped up a sidebar. Working with litigation consultants before and during trial is an excellent way to be reminded of these tips in real time.
7. It has been said that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. Ready for a deep dive on body language? Here is an entire 90-minute History Channel show on body language that summarizes most of what was discussed above. There is no question that body language can betray us and that we need to look beyond the words.
Still, I would be skeptical of any expert or litigation consultant who says that body language is the only thing that matters.
Other related resources from A2L's litigation consultants:
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- 10 Great Tips for Litigations from A2L's litigation consultants
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