Friday, June 1, 2012

Arrogance 101: Dump It!

Recently,  R. Allen Stanford, the onetime Caribbean banking tycoon, was found guilty of investment fraud by a jury on 13 of 14 criminal counts, and required to forfeit $330 million in assets.

What brought him down? Stanford’s fraud and greed, of course, but according to the jurors, more than anything, it was Stanford’s demeanor that convicted him, his arrogant attitude in the courtroom day after day.

Many of you are saddled with arrogant clients or witnesses, and many a time I’ve been called in to help prepare the witness for trial, because this type of witness always rubs jurors the wrong way. Yet the “fix” is remarkably simple.

Arrogance is expressed through body language, vocal tone, and patterns of response. An arrogant person’s body is often canted back, their chin tilted slightly up as if looking down their nose at others. Their tone is condescending, full of dismissive utterances and/or sarcasm. Their responses fail to take into account jurors’ different levels of education or sophistication.

All of these are easily corrected by an appeal to the arrogant individual’s desire to do well, even brilliantly (a consequence of their narcissism), along with a hefty dose of video-taped role play, none of which alter the truth or substance of their testimony one iota. It does, however, alter your witness’s presentation of said truth on the stand, such that jurors can perceive beyond your witness’s arrogance to what’s important: the substance of their testimony. 

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