As an expert in nonverbal intelligence, I am often asked how to accurately read a juror's body language.
Here's the short of it: you can't accurately read a juror's body language if what you're looking for is whether or not they'll vote your way.
But there are things you can read: permission and what mode jurors are in.
Let's discuss permission first.
Permission is how receptive someone is to you or your message. It's conveyed nonverbally. Meaning, even if someone says, "Yes, you may do that," you may not have their real permission.
For example, have you ever been in voir dire and asked a juror if you could ask them a question, and they say yes, but then you still have a hard time getting them to answer? They gave you verbal permission, but not real permission.
You can read permission by watching a juror's breathing. Is the juror sitting still, head resting on top of his shoulders, conversing easily? He's most likely breathing well. Conversely, is the juror sitting stiffly, shoulders up, having trouble finding words? She's most likely holding her breath or breathing shallowly.
When a juror holds his or her breath, they go into fight or flight mode. This means they're in survival mode and cannot be receptive to you or anyone else. This is why breathing is an indicator of permission.
Carefully watch a juror's breathing to gauge whether you have permission or not. You can also just tune into how the interaction feels: cold and stunted? You don't have permission. Warm and inviting? You most likely have permission.
Next week we'll discuss the second thing you can read: what mode jurors are in.
Until then, check out this podcast: How to Read Body Language.
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