Maximizing the Initial
At the time when I was starting to train lawyers to use nonverbal strategies, an attorney with a strong visual preference moaned to me about her extreme disadvantage on the telephone. She said she needed face-to-face contact with other parties to collect all the information she required. I bet her a lunch that she could pick up almost 50 percent more information if she used two small nonverbal strategies. She was game. I told her to forget about housecleaning her desk while she talked on the telephone. I also instructed her to close her eyes and really listen. A week later she laughingly called me to ask me to pick a restaurant.
Because many mediators do much preparatory and other information-gathering work by telephone, anything they can do to increase the amount of knowledge they gain from each call will benefit everyone involved in the mediation. Step Two in using nonverbal communication in mediation, then, is to maximize what you can learn from the initial telephone contact, and all subsequent contacts, with the mediating parties and their representatives. Four areas need particular consideration: listening for physical cues and patterns, managing the conversation, attending to the nuances of paralanguage, and asking effective questions.
The way people behave physically when they are talking on the telephone affects the amount and kind of information they can absorb. Mediators can do several simple things to get more from telephone conversations.