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You can’t go anywhere without someone texting you today.  For some, text messages are the preferred source of communications.  But how accurate are texts and can we rely on this form of communication?

The reality is that text message, while efficient, is a very flawed method of communicating.  According to longstanding research by Mehrabian, 93% of communication is lost if you are just relying on the words themselves – which is exclusively the realm of texts. Moreover, when people communicate in short bursts, it is easier to misunderstand the meaning of the text than in other forms of written communication that is longer. Indeed, according to researchers Kato and Akahori in 2005, the smaller the amount of emotional content in a text message led to an increased amount of anxiety and frustration in the reciever’s reaction.

According to recent research, by David Xu, assistant professor in the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, text messaging also leads to a greater likelihood of people lying in the text message.  Dr. Xu found that subjects who communicated via text messages were 95 percent more likely to lie or decieve than if they had interacted via video, 31 percent more likely to report deception when compared to face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.

Xu said this kind of research has implications for consumers to avoid problems such as online fraud, and for businesses looking to promote trust and build a good image, Xu said.

This also has implications for negotiations.  It is important to make sure that important negotiations are not conducted over text but instead through other methods.  Indeed, many negotiations require subtle clues to be interpreted.  Those interprations cannot occur through text messages.

It is also important to note that one benefit, however, of texting is for socially anxious people. For those people who are afraid of a face to face interaction, texting is beneficial. Indeed, research has shown that texting reduces the anxiety levels of persons who have difficulty communicating face to face.

Research Source: Wichita State University (2012, January 26). People lie more when texting, study finds.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 11, 2013, from­/releases/2012/01/120125131120.htm

By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

So you want persuade the other side or the mediator?  Well use more adjectives and you will be amazing in your power of persuasion according to new research.

Purdue researchers contrasted the use of adjectives by successful and less successful authors, both in classics and modern books.  They found that in both cases, the author that used more adjectives was more successful.

According to some researchers of neuromarketing, “the authors of the study believe that adjectives that are sensory in nature are more impactful and memorable.

Of course, even if you buy their sampling technique, what makes books sell better doesn’t automatically translate into more persuasive ad copy or sales letters. Still, there’s evidence that adjectives boost restaurant sales when used on menus, and that sensory adjectives light up our brains even when used metaphorically.

The consistent factor in all of this is that adjectives can’t be bland filler – they should be vivid, sensory and specific. They should engage our imagination.” (

The Message for your mediation statement and message:  Use evocative, vivid and specific adjectives to present your position.  Especially, if you are trying to convince the other side.  Just as in trial, consider using your five senses as a guide to persuasion.  Try to present your material evoking images and impressions from each of the five senses.

By Steven G. Mehta

Touch is a powerful force in any social interaction.  There is much research to demonstrate the beneficial effect of touch.  For example, several studies have found that touch can help bond, increase tips, and develop a connection between others.  However, recent research has demonstrated that in a competitive situation, touch can be considered negative and may be considered as a way of exerting dominance.

Take for example in the recent election cycle.  After Mitt Romney’s son made the comment about wanting to take a swing at Obama, Romney’s son then tried to exert dominance in the third debate by patting President Obama on the back.  President Obama then responded by touching Romney’s son at the end on the back.  Politicians are very astute in their knowledge of touch and constantly jockey to get the last “touch.”

Recently, researchers have proven this exact point. Jeroen Camps and his colleagues had 74 student participants perform a maze challenge in a race against a partner. The race was a competition.  In some of the experiment, the partner patted the losing subject on the shoulder three times, smiled and wished them good luck on the next one.  The control group didn’t have the touching of the shoulder.  Next the subjects entered into a game that required cooperation — the Dictator Game.

The revealing finding was that participants who’d been patted on the shoulder shared…[less] with their partner, suggesting that touch can backfire when it’s performed in a competitive context, perhaps because it’s interpreted as a gesture of dominance. Interestingly, there was no link between participants’ awareness of whether they’d been touched and their sharing behaviour; participants who remembered the touch rated it as neutral; and the partner wasn’t rated as more unpleasant in the touch condition. All of which suggests the adverse effect of touch on later cooperation was probably non-conscious.

A second study was similar but this time participants and their partner…either competed against each other on a puzzle or they cooperated. Again, afterwards, the partner wished them luck, smiled, and either did or didn’t pat them on the shoulder at the end, before they both moved to another room to play the dictator game. The results were clear – in a competitive context, touched participants subsequently shared fewer movie-prize credits with their partner, compared with those participants who weren’t touched. By contrast, in the cooperative context, touched participants went on to be more generous with their partner, as compared with participants who weren’t touched. (Camps, J., Tuteleers, C., Stouten, J., and Nelissen, J. (2012). A situational touch: How touch affects people’s decision behaviour. Social Influence, 1-14 DOI:10.1080/15534510.2012.719479; BPS Digest)

“Despite what some people might think, touching someone else may thus not always have desirable social consequences,” the researchers said. “A simple tap on the shoulder, even with the best intent, will do nothing but harm when used in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The ramifications for touch can be significant in negotiations and mediation.  You have to be careful to think about whether you are in a competitive negotiation or cooperative process.  Many negotiations in the litigation context can be extremely competitive and win-lose zero sum game.  On the other hand, if you are negotiating a joint venture in a cooperative setting or assisting as a mediator, touch might be beneficial.  The importance of this research is that you must be careful to analyze the situation before first engaging in touch.  Then consider what the effect might be on the other and how they might interpret that touch.

By Steven G. Mehta

Many people are shocked and amazed when they find out that the juries are susceptible to lies of unscrupulous experts or witnesses.  They often state with incredulity that the truth should come out in trial.  Unfortunately, however, the truth doesn’t always come out.  Recently, a study from Australia helped to give a better understanding why people — as voters in an election or voters on a jury — are susceptible to lies.  The simple truth:  Inherent Laziness.

“A study led by Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia explains part of what may happen. The researchers found that ‘Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true — it requires additional motivational and cognitiveresources.’

If the subject isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold, according to the researchers. They point out that rejecting false information requires more cognitive effort than just taking it in. That is, weighing how plausible a message is, or assessing the reliability of its source, is more difficult, cognitively, than simply accepting that the message is true. In short, it takes more mental work. And if the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, the misinformation is more likely to take hold.”  (Pyschology Today, Why You’re Likely to Believe Political Lies )

When a person does take the time and effort to question the lie, they only take limited mental resources to do so.  They ask questions such as does this fit within my understanding of the world?  Do others believe it?  Is the source reliable?  So in essence, they filter the information even when they are questioning it.  As such, in order for the truth to come out, it must first overcome the mental laziness, and then must find its way through limited mental filters.

The problem with that filtration system is that only information that is consistent with your own beliefs will come through.  So on many occassions, the filter creates a self fulfilling prophecy that the false information will be believed.  In other words a lie is given, filtered, and then believed, which then reinforces your position or belief about issues related to the lie.

Moreover, when someone tries to demonstrate factually that the developed viewpoint is wrong, the entrenched parties often become even further entrenched citing the inaccuracy of the data.  For example, “The GOP had emphasized their conviction that unemployment would remain above 8 percent — and benefit Romney’s campaign. However, following the report that unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent during September, several Republican spokesmen immediately claimed that the figures had been falsified. And despite factual corroboration that the numbers were accurately determined, some doubled-down on their allegation that a conspiracy to cook the numbers must have occurred. ” (pyschology today)

The consequences of this misinformation are dramatic for mediation and litigation.  First, this demonstrates why people might believe the statements of experts.  At first, the information seems to be plausible; second, it fits into the system of beliefs that the juror believes, and thus becomes even more plausible.  Finally, in order for a person to really break down the lie, that juror must really care.  Many jurors do care; but certainly others can’t be bothered.  They don’t care enough to break down the intricate lie.  Thus they decide to accept it.  At least this way, they can go home earlier.

Second, in mediation the problem persists with the parties.  Many times, regardless of what facts you might present to one side or the other, they simply won’t believe the facts.  Instead,  you must work to change their view within their belief system.  In other words, you must find something that they believe and apply it to convince them that the position that they have taken is contrary to their beliefs.   In order to do this you must understand the specific advocacy position as it relates to the negotiation, and then look to their interests and beliefs.

Steve’s Book

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