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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

Cell phones have revolutionized the way that we communicate.  Many people attorneys believe that having a cell phone has made them more efficient and productive.  But is there a cost?  Can cell phones actually hinder communication.  My answer is yes.

According to new research from Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, cell phones can actually harm the interactivity of in person communications when the cell phone is visible.  The researchers asked participants to spend 10 minutes chatting to each other about “an interesting event that occurred to you over the past month”. The participants sat in a private booth so that there were no distractions.  For half of them, close by but out of their direct line of view, a mobile phone was placed on a table-top. For the other pairs, there was a note-book in place of the phone.

The participants who had chatted with a phone nearby, as opposed to a notebook, were less likely to become friends with the other person even if they interacted a lot.  They also reported feeling less closely connected to their conversational partner.  In a second study participants were divided into four groups involving mundane topics, meaningful topics and phone or notebook.  Understandably the participants talking about meaningful topics felt closer or more intimately connected to their conversational partner.  However, this extra level of intimacy was missing for the participants for whom a mobile phone was visible.  The participants often didn’t even know that the cell phone was present suggesting that the effect was on a non-conscious level.

This research is part of the broader concept of non-conscious priming; where an object can sub-consciously affect a person’s behavior.  In addition, on an observational level, the phone implies that the person is not interested in the conversation; that they would rather be discussing something else with another person.  It can also suggest that the person in the in person conversation is not important.

This research also remains consistent with the fundamental views regarding listening.  As part of the wide literature, including my own book, it is important to actively listen to another person by removing distractions.  Listening is a sign of respect and eliminating obstacles to a clear interaction is a further sign that the person in the room is important.

The implications for mediation are very clear.  Remove obstructions, distractions, and articles that may interfere or detract from the interaction.  In addition, perhaps you might consider making the obvious gesture of letting the other person know that you are shutting off the phone putting it away.

If you don’t believe that cell phones are disruptive and potentially offensive to the person in the room, watch the next video.

Listening actively is a critical means of helping to resolve a dispute.  Don’t let the phone call or text take away from that.

Source: Andrew K. Przybylski, and Netta Weinstein (2012). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships DOI: 10.1177/0265407512453827

By Steven G. Mehta

Story telling is a fundamental part of human interaction.  From early on, humans communicated through stories.  They taught lessons through stories, and they experienced life through stories.  Take a look at all religious books — The Bible, the Bhagvad Gita, etc — and they are all stories with a purpose.

Behavioral psychologist Susan M. Weinschenk Ph.D. notes: Research shows that stories create images in the mind that may also trigger mirror neurons. Use stories if you want to get people to take an action.

Stories can also help forge connections and allow people to understand abstract concepts through the medium of the story.  The story of the tortoise and hare teach the abstract principle that a person doesn’t have to be the quickest of the mark to succeed, but that patience and perseverance can succeed over instant speed.  It also teaches that one person’s skill in the sprint may be his disadvantage in the marathon.

In mediation, stories too have their place.  Stories can help to demonstrate a problem that a party is having without having to tell them about the specific problem.  Some concerns with stories, however, are that they go to long or that they are not relevant.  Many people complain that the stories of some mediators are old war stories, or worse, conversations about the mediator’s children or personal life.

It is important for anybody trying to tell a story in mediation that it have immediate relevance to the subject.  At the end of the story, there must be an aha moment.  The person hearing must think to themselves — I want to be like the person in the story or I don’t want to have that experience in my life.

Second, the story must be short.  According to the website the Copyblogger, if you are lucky you have a minute and a half to get your story across.  According to a study done by the internet video service provider wistia, a video that is under 30 seconds is viewed fully through by 85% of the viewers who watch the video, whereas a video in excess of 2 minutes is only watched half way.  Wistia suggests that you should have your main content within 20 seconds.  (article by Amit Agarwal).  This research confirms that you message and story must be short. In today’s time challenged world, if you don’t get to the point quickly, you are wasting time and worse not communicating effectively.

Finally, your story has to be compelling.  It has to peek the interest of the audience.

Too many people make those three mistakes:  Irrelevant, long and boring story.

By Steven G. Mehta

By Steven G. Mehta

Recently I was reminded of the the old adage, “never judge a book by its cover.”  Prior to mediation, one of the parties to the mediation wrote that the case will never settle.  At that point the attorney for the party proceeded to write a compendium about why the case will never settle.

At some point after the third paragraph, I even had an inkling that the case might not settle and that my Friday afternoon might suddenly become clear.   However, after a short reverie of what I might do in the afternoon, I came back to my senses and went back to my internal mantra, “The case will settle!  They Just Don’t Know it Yet.”

During the mediation, it became surprisingly evident that the case would likely settle within a particular range.  I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it had gone.  This was party because of the fact that I had such low expectations of the outcome of the case.  In the end, it was like any other mediation that was successful.

The Moral of the Story:  Even if the parties say that the case will never settle, don’t believe it.  It may yet surprise you.  Moreover, as a party, you should be careful to put in a brief about your absolute conviction that the case won’t settle because you may create a self fulfilling prophecy.  Your words may just create  a mindset that is unbreakable.

Steve’s Book

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