Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jurors Live By “What You See Is What You Believe:” Ignore It At Your Peril

“What you see is what you believe” – is true not just of how jurors gauge the veracity of your witness’s testimony, but also of how jurors assess you when you sit at counsel table.

Jurors assess your demeanor according to stereotypical interpretations; they have no personal knowledge of you that would allow them to determine otherwise.

For example: are you sitting hunched forward, leaning heavily on your forearms or elbows? Jurors may conclude that you are worried, defeated by that last response your witness made. Are you sitting straight, but with your arms crossed in front of your body? Jurors may take that as meaning you are angry with your witness, or upset by whatever just transpired. Are you fidgeting with your pen? Your glasses? Jurors can readily interpret such mannerisms as indications of your anxiety.

The nonverbal messages you express – consciously or otherwise – are as important to juror impression as are the words you speak.

You must exude self-confidence (not arrogance!) in body as well as voice, for the jurors to be willing to be led to the conclusions you want them to make. They will be reluctant to be led by an attorney who appears anxious, worried, or defeated.

“Grace under pressure” is not a cute aphorism. It is a truth that successful attorneys embody in every aspect of their demeanor.  

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