At a recent meeting of a trade group, the lunch time speaker was Mac Fulfer, a lawyer and professional face reader. So what is a face reader and why am I talking about it in a blog about negotiation skills. Mr. Fulfer contends that there are about 150 facial characteristics that can be read to learn useful insights about a person. Before you scoff at this as a simple parlor trick, I spoke to nearly a dozen people who had been “read” by Mr. Fulfer and all were amazed at how much he knew about their personality and how they approach problems or projects or their careers etc. I had my face read and am unable to dismiss this system as a gimmick.
So why should a mediator or negotiator care? Without training I do not know how useful learning to read faces could be in face to face negotiations but don’t we all read people through our untrained filters every day. Why do we naturally trust some people and others have to prove themselves? What if it was possible to learn a systematic method for reading faces and body language. As lawyers and negotiators we should not only listen to what the other side is saying but how it is being said.
What are the implications for mediation? The standard formula for mediation is a relatively brief general session followed by private sessions where the parties do not face each other. Should we, as mediators, force more face to face negotiation? Although the implications of systematized face or body language reading are not clear, I know enough to never play poker with Mac Fulfer.