Non-Verbal Communication in Criminal Justice
Whether it is factually writing an incident report or verbally explaining to a juror what their responsibility is during a trial, these professionals must clearly express important information. Oral and written communication obviously have their place in this domain, but communication does not end here, that’s why this paper will elaborate on the subject of the importance of nonverbal communication and point out how this information will help criminal justice professionals to succeed.
It will break down the subject into categories and elaborate on the different environments this material will support various encounters in the judicial system. According to the pioneer in the study of nonverbal communication, Ray Birdwhistell, he has approximated that only thirty percent of the communication is actually verbal. (Lytle, J. S. , 1984). In this Criminal Justice Communication course, we were informed that it is believed the communication cues we rely on are as follows: fifty-five percent are facial expressions, thirty-eight percent are tone of voice, and only seven percent are actual words that are spoken.
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Wallace, H. , & Robertson, C. , 2009). Although the method of nonverbal communication is not an exact science, it is still important to understand what body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, and personal distance are conveying; this breakdown of interpretation is also known as soft skills. As criminal justice professionals it can be particularly important for a better understanding of unspoken communication since criminal justice professionals interact with people from so many different backgrounds and may be in intense situations.
They are required to assess conditions and attempt to predetermine the next move of the subject being observed and depending on the role of the individual professional it could determine the outcome of a life or death situation. On a daily basis for every criminal justice profession it is always important to understand and continually fine tune the art of body language interpretation. The variety of situations and limitless diversity definitely poses a great possibility for error; this is why it is critical for all of the factors to be taken into account when reading each subject and the entire scenario. Nowicki, E. , 2001). So how do you know the perception of what is happening is being communicated correctly? Well, accuracy can be obtained through several tactics, however, before discussing that it is important to consider the components that could alter soft skills analyses which can be unintentional and end up skewing the outcome. For example, if communication is taking place with someone that is emotionally and/or intellectually challenged, suffers from a mental illness, or is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol this will most likely interfere with the reading of the subject’s nonverbal language.
When interacting with children it is important to be aware of the fact that they are still developing their social skills and tend to be awkward with their movements and gestures. (Hollerbach, D. , 2006). Additionally, senior citizens are harder to read because they have less muscle tone in the face. Gender, economic, and cultural differences can also affect non-verbal communication. Studies have revealed that men tend to mask or hide their emotions more than women.
Patterns of variation in male and female facial expressions, gestures, and movement are due to the roles each gender plays in society, the cultural stereotypes and perceptions that are acceptable. Economic environment can also adjust the soft skills of a subject; an example of this difference would be the way a president of a Fortune 500 company would most likely not have the same gestures and movements as a gang leader would possess in a public setting.
Although the American entertainment industry has contributed to bridging the cultural gap in nonverbal communication there are still significant differences with interpretations in regards to soft skills. For instance, eastern culture views on eye contact are considerably different from our western culture, men and women have different boundaries when it comes to body language from country to country, and this is also the case in respect to age in many cultures, too. There may be some issues when trying to read the body language of the hearing impaired and the deaf, too.
In the past, sign language was considered to be a form of nonverbal communication because of the gestures or pantomimes. However, this is no longer the case, through the assistance of linguistic research; American Sign Language (ASL) is now classified as a verbal language. (Lytle, J. S. , 1984). When attempting to assess a situation utilizing soft skills, a criminal justice professional must consider the message they are trying to relay to someone who happens to be hearing impaired or deaf is delayed, they may be reading our lips, and for them to communicate their “words” it requires more intense facial and hand gestures.
When considering the maneuvers criminal justice professionals practice to help assess a situation, individual, or group, perhaps to avoid repetition, it would be best to break down and give examples of how these professionals could best use the components of soft skills as tools for a successful outcome in their daily functions. Proceed with caution and be mindful of the variables previously conveyed and how interpretation can be skewed when they are a part of the equation.
Human behavior can be tricky since it is not controlled like a language and let’s face it, most individuals have many eccentricities which interfere with identifiable patterns in this form of communication. Practice, knowledge and intuition can help overcome some of these obstacles, though. Through facial expressions, professionals in the field of criminal justice may be able to tell what the true feelings of the subject they are interacting with are and if there is truth or deception in the words they are speaking.
It may be best to sort this category out by facial parts, and please remember for the purpose of this paper, the examples are specific, but not limited to expressions that can be used by criminal justice professionals in various positions for a number of situations. The indicators generated from the forehead are usually in conjunction with other body language signals, more like amplifiers, since it is limited in the amount of movements it can make and the message tends to be negative.
A wrinkled forehead accompanied by raised eyebrows can be interpreted as being surprised, confused, or questioning. When someone’s forehead is sweating in the presence of a criminal justice professional, chances are it is being read as nervousness and/or deception. Depending on how the forehead is touched it can indicate different messages, like when a subject is slowly rubbing it may be interpreted as deep thinking as though they are trying to come up with a story or trying to remember something.
If someone is massaging their temples it could mean stress or frustration. (Pillai, D. , Sheppard, E. , and Mitchell, P. 2012). Much like the forehead, the eyebrows are usually not independent indicators of nonverbal facial cues; they serve as more of an accent to the eyes and can work in conjunction with the forehead’s clues. They can help give hints to emotions like anger, surprise, and annoyance. We have all heard the statement, “The eyes are the windows to the soul”, and there is some definite truth to that in interpreting the expressions from someone’s eyes.
The eyes can indicate many things that could be helpful in just about every situation in this field; not only can they tell us if an individual is truthful or lying, it can tell us that the subject is angry, sad, surprised, happy, or even under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The eyes can even indicate that the subject is “sizing up the situation” to commit a crime, looking for a weapon to use, or for a way to escape. There is also a term called the “target glance” that is taught to law enforcement which is given about one-half of a second before a person attacks; what a helpful skill that would be to acquire! Nowicki, E. , 2001). Working down the face, the nose can be a great indicator for detecting a liar. Honest! When a person lies, this can cause the blood vessels in their nose to dilate, making the nose swell or appear redder. This nasal inflammation causes cells to release natural histamine, which makes the nose itchy and generates touching or scratching it. Maybe we should call it the “Pinocchio Theory”. Pinching the bridge of the nose can show the person is evaluating something, usually negatively and with some frustration. Much like eyes, lips can give us many clues into the mind of the person being observed.
If the subject has pursed lips this indicates the classic sign of anger, even when it is suppressed. It can also tell us that the person is lying or “sealing their lips” to prevent slipping out the truth. Biting the lips can express nervousness, anxiety, guilt, or lying; typically this action is a subconscious action of a liar. Snarling is where the teeth are exposed by pulling back the lips and specifies aggression, although this can also be a broad smile, so for an accurate reading it is important to also utilize the expression of the subject’s eyes.
Reading a smile can be complex since it is often used as a mask for a deceitful person, so it is best to assess other parts of the face, too. (Pillai, D. , Sheppard, E. , and Mitchell, P. , 2012). The movements and gestures of the upper body can also be a powerful way of tapping into a subject’s agenda and in some cases even a foreshadowing of someone’s next move. If a person’s shoulders are bowed back this is demonstrating their power or authority and signifies they are not in fear of an attack; in some situations it can symbolize challenging authority.
If someone has their shoulders curled forward it shows the person feels inferior or quite possibly consumed with remorse. When a subject is crossing their arms across their chest it is a sign they are placing a barrier between themselves and their surroundings showing they are not receptive to what is happening. Hands can generate a plethora on messages for an observer to identify clues into a person’s agenda. Hands being balled up into fists are usually a negative sign and indicate intense anger, a possible attack, or extreme frustration.
When the palms are facing upwards this can tell their defenses are down and they are being honest. Finger pointing is classified as an assertive sign of aggression. While tapping or drumming says the person is impatient or frustrated and fiddling with items is usually a signal that the individual is nervous or anxious, or quite possibly boredom. Biting fingernails denotes insecurity and the person is very nervous. Finally, the lower body will complete this head-to-toe nonverbal communication map for a professional in the field of criminal justice.
The wider a person’s feet are situated from each other, the more power and dominant the person is feeling. When someone has placed their hands on their hips it can prompt their readiness to confront or challenging the person they are facing. Sitting with the legs apart or if the person’s legs are crossed at the ankles this can express positive feelings and honesty. When one ankle is place on top of the other leg’s knee with the top leg’s knee positioned sideways this is a sign of confidence and even power.
While legs that are crossed can indicate defensiveness or be a positive response, the message depends on the tension of the leg muscles. If a subject is bouncing their foot while sitting with crossed legs this suggests nervousness, irritation, or boredom. (Hollerbach, D. 2006). These hints can be used not only to predict the next move of someone they can also be used to the advantage of criminal justice employees. When you are intentionally conscience of the messages these gestures make you can utilize them to accelerate or deflate a situation.
For instance, an arresting officer can “play” the person they are interrogating with some of these signals, an attorney can coach their client to convey a particular message to a jury, and a judge can use these skills to calm a defendant or a witness and even convey compassion. The possibilities are endless; what a great tool to have in our possession! In conclusion, we all could benefit from the knowledge and skills of studying nonverbal communication. As a Judicial Clerk for Maricopa County Superior Court, I see the need to educate myself further on the subject of nonverbal communication.
I also believe that fellow criminal justice professionals could utilize information regarding the art of nonverbal communication and I would recommend also being mindful of the variables and constantly honing their soft skills. All levels of communication should be well thought out and it is so important to really listen before speaking, read and re-read messages or reports before hitting the send button or turning in. This information and advice would also be wise to incorporate in our personal lives, as well. ? References Grubb, Hemby, R, K. (2003). Effective Communication for Criminal Justice Professionals.
Belmont, CA 94002-: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. Hollerbach, D. (2006). Improving Nonverbal Communication: A Guide for Upcoming Criminal Justice Professionals. Yahoo Voices. Retrieved from http://voices. yahoo. com/improving-nonverbal-communication-guide-upcoming-138589. html Lytle, J. S. (1984). Nonverbal Communication of the Deaf. Association For Communication Administration Bulletin, (50), 53-56. Retrieved from http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/ehost/detail? vid=5&sid=193e1f00-5544-4814-8f73-b0af4788cbee%40sessionmgr114&hid=108&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=18090140 Nowicki, E. 2001). Body Language. Law and Order v. 49, issue 8, pg. 27-28. Retrieved from Lytle, J. S. (1984). Nonverbal Communication of the Deaf. Association for Communication Administration Bulletin, (50), 53-56. Retrieved from http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/ehost/detail? vid=5&sid=193e1f00-5544-4814-8f73- Pillai, D. , Sheppard, E. , and Mitchell, P. (2012). Can People Guess What Happened to Others from Their Reactions? PLoS ONE, 7 (11) DOI: Retrieved from http://dx. doi. org/10. 1371/journal. pone. 0049859 Wallace, H. , & Robertson, C. (2009). Written and Interpersonal