Monday, January 30, 2012

Create a Trustworthy First Impression

Personal experience tells us how powerful first impressions are. However, new research from the University of California, Berkeley (Nov, 2011) reinforces our innate understanding of first impressions. The study suggests it can take just 20 seconds to detect whether a stranger is genetically inclined to being trustworthy, kind or compassionate. That’s less than a minute for you, or your witnesses, to establish a credible first impression with the jurors, one which, once established, will be very difficult to change or alter in any way.

What was it about the strangers that led the study subjects to figure out whether or not the stranger was trustworthy? Very simply, the “trusted” strangers displayed more trustworthy behaviors – more head nods, more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture.

All of these behaviors are easily accessible to any of us. For that matter, when you’re in a relaxed, comfortable situation with friends or family, you’re likely to display these very behaviors without thinking about it.

Allow yourself to present yourself to the jurors more as who you are with friends – trusting and therefore trustworthy, and encourage your witnesses to do the same. The only caveat is that smiles must be appropriate to the situation, and when in trial, the moments where it is appropriate to smile are limited.