Communicating With Judge Judy

08 May

As a writer I’ve had to pay more attention to how people communicate and decided to check out nonverbal communication on television. This past week I viewed two back-to-back court hearings on Judge Judy where I observed some nonverbal communication styles in the courtroom. In the first part of the episode, Judy focused in on a multi-pierced, twenty-three year old man with a Mohawk hairstyle, who’d thrown bricks into the windshield of his ex-girlfriend’s car. Judy said, “She may think you’re handsome, but I don’t!” “Uncross your arms!” and “Put your arms at your sides!” The second part of the episode revolved around two high school boys/brothers who were accused of stealing money from a backpack. Judy commented on one boy’s poor eye contact and had to use a hand gesture to remind him to look at her. “Look at me when I’m speaking!” “Stand up straight!” Also, Judge Judy hates it when you are smiling at the wrong time. “Wipe the smirk off your face!”

Our clothing and personal appearance are important means of nonverbal communication. If you wear a Mohawk in Judy’s courtroom, she lets you know she’s not impressed. Many Americans consider a reluctance to make eye contact as rude, disrespectful, and hostile, and can demonstrate believability or dishonesty. Further, we avoid eye contact with someone we dislike. If someone has their arms folded after meeting you, it could mean that he is not enthusiastic about being around you. Through our facial expressions (smiling or a smirk at an inopportune time in this example), we reveal a great deal about our feelings and responses to other people.

Communication is 7 % verbal and 65 to 93% nonverbal. Judge Judy has to consider the whole picture when determining whether a person is guilty or not. The nonverbal expression and the verbal message must be considered together. The nonverbal message is more accurate and is usually believed over the verbal message. Watching Judge Judy helped me see that whether we like it or not, we are being “judged” by our nonverbal communication in every aspect of our lives. One can learn a lot about nonverbal communication by looking no further than your living room TV. Perhaps while watching your favorite show you can gain a few nonverbal communication ideas to add to the characters in your story.


Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Idaho


10 responses to “Communicating With Judge Judy

  1. Liz Fredericks

    May 8, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    Excellent post! I struggle with depicting body language in writing as I’m afraid to come off as cliche. Your idea to dissect scenarios from television is great. Thank you –

  2. Janis

    May 8, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    Mary, awareness of non-verbal cues help us navigate real life as well!

    I like the TV show “Lie to Me” because it focuses on the art of deciphering non-verbal cues.

    Great blog.

  3. Johanna Harness

    May 8, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Thanks for this, Mary. What a fun idea! I second Janis’ recommendation for Lie To Me. Great examples of non-verbal expression there.

  4. maryvine

    May 8, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Thanks! My husband likes to watch Judge Judy. I like to watch her more than I like the show!

  5. Clarissa Southwick

    May 8, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    What a great suggestion. I like to watch TV with the sound off to see if I can figure out what’s happening. Most of the time, I can. So that backs up the percentages (verbal vs. nonverbal) you quoted. Now, if only I could get all that body language into my novel….

    Thanks for another great post, Mary.

  6. Carley Ash

    May 8, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    Great idea to use TV to come up with the descriptions, maybe mannerisms, of my characters. Thanks.

  7. lynn mapp

    May 9, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Mary, I should watch Judge Judy without the sound. That would force me to pay attention to the nonverbal communication taking place.
    Great post.

  8. Melissa Amber Digiulio

    January 9, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Hi Judge Judy this Melissa


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