|The no-expression expression|
|By Joe Bouchard|
She had been called to duty. She sat in the front row of the jury box. Never before had she faced such weighty decisions.
There was more on her mind, though, than the verdict. It seemed to her that the prosecution, defense, and the judge were gauging her expression through the trial. Every time she looked up, at least one of those three were reading their effectiveness by looking at her eyes. She was the barometer, and she did not like it.
Like it or not, there are those among us who reveal our innermost thoughts through expressions. Non-verbal communication, as conventional wisdom has it, accounts for over 90% of all communications. Either our eyes say it all, or posture gives us away. Often, facial expressions tell the silent tale.
In corrections, there is a time and place for open display of thoughts from action. It is important for staff to be clear in their instructions. These should leave no room for interpretation. Otherwise, confusion and danger could result.
Also, staff and offenders to adapt to a work persona that isn’t erratic in an easier manner. So, if you are read as being stable, that is usually advantageous.
Of course, the exceptions are there. We do not, for example, want offenders to read some of our non-verbal cues, as that could put us and others in peril.
If we experience a momentary lack of confidence, for example, we do not want that to be evident. If a tinge of fear is detectable, the road back to confidence can be made long and difficult.
When we discover something in the middle of an investigation, we do not want to tip our hand. Doing so may result in our hard work being undone when offenders are alerted to cover their tracks. For example, there is a lot of work involved in a covert search that seeks to discover a smuggling empire. When staff inadvertently dismantle the operation through overt expression prior to the actual offense, the work was for naught.
And there are times that we need to keep a confident look of calm when we may feel otherwise. If, for example, you have issued ample verbal warning to an offender (predicated on the notion of progressive discipline) you may become frustrated when the directions are not followed. If you show frustration, this may fuel further discipline issues.
Sometimes, we are met with a very comic situation. Imagine that someone falls on the ice in front of you. Often, the first impulse is to laugh. However automatic that may be, it militates against our professional imperative. Our duty is to measure damage, assess security, and issue aid as proscribed by policy and procedure. We are not charged with hurting the pride of others by inappropriate laughter. It also becomes a possible security issue when we inspire vengeance and violence through our mockery.
Of course, we are not criminal justice robots, devoid of emotion, expression, and personality. However, there are appropriate times that we can don our figurative sunglasses in the poker game of our work life.
Let’s return to the example at the start of this post. When it was all over, she left the court house with a sense of relief. She no longer had to be conscious of modulating her emotions. Inscrutability was no longer her concern. Yet, many of us have to integrate that into our work personas every day. That, of course, is just another part of our interesting and often challenging vocation.
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