Horse Sense for Lawyers – Tap Your Somatic Wisdom to Boost Your Performance

FRANCIE KILBORNE Associate General Counsel, Energy Transfer Partners, USA



Science is increasingly supporting the premise that the majority of communication among humans is non-verbal. Neuroscientist and New York Times best-selling author Robert Cooper’s book The Other 90%, How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life paints a pretty dramatic picture of the degree to which we handicap ourselves when we over-emphasize the importance of the spoken and written word and ignore other sources of information. In international transactions, where, in spite of the best translators, verbal nuance is inevitably lost, the importance of non-verbal, somatic communication escalates.

Yet, there are no courses in law school on how to master this vast “language” that every one of us “speaks” almost constantly, whether we realize it or not. Our communications training as lawyers focuses exclusively on the 10% (writing and speaking). Some people develop non-verbal communication skills by happenstance and don’t even realize where they get their “edge.” But influential thinkers like Daniel Goleman have no doubt that the invisible “edge” that he calls emotional intelligence is more important than subject matter expertise and even IQ in predicting career success.1 Imagine how much more effective we all could be as advocates for our clients and as negotiators if we accessed the vast stores of “hidden” non-verbal communication at work in our interactions.

This article is an exploration of how mastering just a few principles of non-verbal/somatic communication can improve a lawyer’s effectiveness with clients, co-workers, and counterparties. I draw liberally from the work of writer Linda Kohanov, an innovator in the field of teaching leadership and emotional intelligence using horses, a species whose survival for centuries has depended on their being masters of the skill.

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Lindsey Oh