The Psychology of Body Language
Body language provides nonverbal cues that can add meaning and heavily influence how others will interpret and react to the information presented to them. In a deposition or a courtroom, the body language of a witness or attorney, such as posture, facial expressions, gestures, and even eye movements, can subtly impact how their words are received.
While a compelling witness can help you secure a positive outcome for your case, at the same time, a nervous or rattled witness can disproportionately impact settlement and trial outcomes. With the success of your case being inexorably tied to the performance of your witness, witnesses who display poor body language or nervousness during questioning can easily make errors that can devastate your case. Mitigate risk and achieve superior outcomes by understanding the psychology of body language.
How can you avoid negative body language?
Individuals must become aware of the nonverbal messages they may send to others to deliver the most effective message. Body language can change how their message is perceived. Individuals can avoid negative body language by not fidgeting, having good posture, not adjusting clothing, maintaining solid eye contact, not touching their faces, and by looking interested.
Witness Body Language Impacts Deposition Testimony
Witness credibility is frequently determined more by nonverbal behavior than by verbal content. Witnesses who fail to manage their body language or demeanor may be seen as evasive, nonresponsive, argumentative, or defensive. They may even appear to regress into a fight-or-flight posture. A substantial portion of communication is nonverbal, and these behaviors may inadvertently play directly into opposing counsel’s hands.
For witnesses, one of the primary factors that may lead jurors to believe that they are being deceptive in their communication is often referred to as an adaptor. Adaptors are generally defined as repetitive, unnecessary peripheral body movements, such as fidgeting. These movements usually occur as a means for a person to release excess levels of internal stress, allowing them to ‘adapt’ to the present situation. Witnesses may exemplify this behavior by bouncing a leg up and down, adjusting their glasses, swiveling their chair, taking too many drinks of water, or playing with a pencil.
In witness training sessions, it is essential to point out that jurors are masters at detecting these unnecessary movements in witnesses. That doesn’t mean that witnesses must remain motionless. Naturally expressive movements, such as gesticulating or other supportive motions used to connote emphasis, are to be expected and do not undermine credibility. But movements interpreted as repetitive and unnecessary need to be identified and remediated.
How to Prepare a Witness to Become a Better Presenter
Helping a witness understand that their body language signals more about them and their credibility than the color of their necktie or their familiarity with the documents and exhibits is the first step in helping prepare them to become a better presenter. Witness credibility starts with those nonverbal cues and then extends to the behavioral and emotional reactions and responses given during testimony.
Witnesses must be trained to be aware of their behaviors and maintain professionalism, poise, and positive body language. Witnesses will often claim that they understand the feedback being provided and may even promise that they can deliver when the situation arises. Still, in the stress of the moment, they tend to revert to previous behavior patterns.
Overcoming these behaviors requires the achievement of relaxation on the part of the witness through extended practice. Techniques such as role-playing, extended questioning with direct, immediate feedback, and then repeating the process to obtain the desired outcome are incredibly beneficial for witnesses.
The more practice that can be done, the more comfortable a witness can become with the process, and the less likely they are to behave unexpectedly during the deposition or trial. To learn these skills, a witness must practice them under watchful guidance while receiving timely feedback. Particularly when it comes to the mastery of body language and nonverbal behavior, the practice effect is critical because witness performance is an acquired skill. Investing the time to help a witness become a better presenter of the information is critical to their performance and their mindset.
Courtroom Sciences’ experts agree that the biggest benefit you can provide any witness being deposed or being prepped for trial is witness effectiveness training that focuses on their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional responses to any questioning. Our psychology experts deliver sophisticated neuro-cognitive training that will leave them poised, confident, and persuasive.
Speak with one of our experts to learn how witness effectiveness training can help your witnesses avoid negative body language and have greater credibility during testimony.
● Witnesses who fail to manage their body language or demeanor may be seen as evasive, nonresponsive, argumentative, or defensive.
● Credibility is frequently determined more by nonverbal behavior than by verbal content.
● Witnesses must be trained to be aware of their behaviors and maintain professionalism, poise, and positive body language.
● Preparing witnesses for their testimony is a crucial step to ensure positive outcomes.
● The biggest benefit you can provide any witness is witness effectiveness training focusing on their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional responses.
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