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As an attorney, does your face say what you want it to while communicating? Does it say anything at all? The eyes may be the window to your soul, but is the rest of your face acting like a door? Here are some common facial faux pas: Ben Stein Stoicism. The well-known actor and comedian is easily recognized for his deadpan style. Unfortunately, too many speakers have a similar style. The result? An audience or jury that is, at best, inattentive and, at worst, sleeping. Divided Visage. This is common. Many people are animated in only half of the face. Some speakers use their eyes and brows to communicate a lot. Unfortunately, someone could put pencils on their upper lips and the pencils would never move. On the other hand, some people are skilled with their “beauty pageant contestant smile” and other lower facial movements, but their upper face looks like it is still recovering from Botox treatments. Regardless of which of these a lawyer does, the result is the same�it looks disingenuous. Contradictory Countenance. I once taught a workshop for the Internal Revenue Service during which one female participant nodded and smiled. On the other side of the table was a man who constantly looked like he had eaten something bad and could bring it back up at any minute. Later, I found out that when I read their workshop evaluations, both of their faces contradicted their real feelings about the workshop. The woman hated the class and me. The man found great value in almost everything. As a lawyer, does your face contradict your message? Do your words say, “This is really important information,” but your face and head say, “I disagree” or “This is worthless” as you frown, deadpan or shake your head from side to side? Simian Smile. Chimpanzees smile when nervous or scared. So do some fretful presenters. So make sure your smile is genuine. How can lawyers tell which, if any, of the facial faux pas they’re guilty of? Videotape yourself closeup. Sound uncomfortable? Absolutely. Unfortunately, so many things that are good for us are uncomfortable. But as attorneys who speak in front of groups, whether jurors, judges, clients or colleagues, this is one of the best developmental things to do. After identifying the facial faux pas, it’s time to remedy the situation. Must a a lawyer have the elastic face of a comedian? Absolutely not. But why not borrow from them? Use your face-not just your words-to carry your message. Watch local or national news anchors for subtle facial animation. They can’t use their hands to gesture for impact, so they have to gesture with their heads, eyes and mouths. A good example is Stone Phillips on NBC’s Dateline; he’s a master of gesturing with his head. Much of his on-camera time is spent with his head moving and tilting slightly. Next time you see someone on television who gives good face, practice mimicking him or her. It will pay big dividends the next time you talk to a client or address a jury. Study the faces of skilled communicators. The more you study facial movements and expressions, the more attuned you will become to your own. Television is an easy source for good communicators. So are comedy clubs and movies. Notice I didn’t mention corporate executives. See how many different emotions you can portray without saying a word. Look in the mirror as you do this. Exaggerate the faces. For the bold people out there, try this with friends or co-workers to see if they can guess the emotion. Think this sounds a bit too much like drama class? So what. There’s a bit of the actor in all the best lawyers. Dave Gunby is founder and principal of MINDimensions, a Dallas-based leadership training and facilitation company. In his 12 years as a trainer, he has helped thousands of people develop presentation skills, creativity, accelerated learning and mind-mapping (an organizing and memory tool).

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