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Make yourself a commanding presence in the courtroom by conveying confidence
Practicing law involves a lot of different elements and skill sets; a good attorney is inquisitive, assertive, and thorough; is a good orator, an effective researcher, and is skilled at adeptly maneuvering through various forms of dialog. However, conquering in the courtroom (and in life, actually) is often influenced by the ability to convey confidence.
Memorizing statutes and learning case law can be challenging, but doesn’t feel as personal as cultivating confidence. On the surface, it seems like confidence is something you either innately possess or that you acquire from years of experience and a series of personal successes. That’s not necessarily true, though. While those things are certainly helpful, a confident countenance is a skill like any other, and will soon become second nature if you invest time and effort into fully developing it.
Body language and personal appearance often speak as much, or more, than words ever can. Even the smallest detail can skew a person’s perspective of who you are and how you carry yourself.
Clothes should always be clean and pressed, shoes un-scuffed and polished, nails and hair groomed – there’s no such thing as casual in the courtroom. Purchase one or two good suits, and a nice pair of shoes in both brown and black if money is tight as you first start off practicing law. Justify the cost of these essentials – and the dry-cleaning bills that come with wrinkle-free clothes – as the investment that they are.
Once you’re well dressed, it’s time to impress. Never underestimate the importance of good posture and outward composure. Studies show that 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal – these off-the-cuff judgments are part of our biological instinct of assessing potential allies and threats. Use that to your advantage when it comes to prospective clients, opposing counsel, the judge, and the jury.
Walk tall: Good posture has been pressed upon most of us from well-meaning mothers throughout our lifetimes, but it’s easy to let it slip. Draw your stomach in, your shoulders back, and lengthen your spine. It may not feel quite natural, but it gives off an air of strength and self-control.
Neutral expression: Although it feels like an odd thing to do, watch your neutral face in the mirror. Do you look calm? Pleasant? Practice smiling without smiling; just a slight lift of the corners of your mouth that will help you seem unstressed and not threatened or threatening.
Eye contact: Looking directly at people makes you seem honest and certain about what you’re saying. Make a point of making eye contact during introductions, take the time to make sure jurors feel seen instead of skimmed over – in fact, making people feel acknowledged goes a long way in earning their trust and affection. Approach people with an open, friendly demeanor, regardless of what role they play in the trial or how you feel about them personally.
Preparation is everything
Another important aspect of developing confidence happens through preparation. Competence begets confidence. When you truly know a subject, it’s easier to speak about it with assurance so pursue knowledge related to your area of practice with a passion at every opportunity, and prepare for every case as if your entire career depends on this one outcome.
Doing your due diligence is obviously important, but so is staying organized and knowing that you’re ready for anything.
Develop routines around how you prepare for trial, not just during the research portion but before the actual event. Review your material thoroughly, but then take some time to work out, go for a walk, or meditate to collect yourself. Practice calming breaths in the car or indulge in a stop at your favorite coffee shop before pulling into the courtroom. Give yourself a pep talk before pulling your shoulders back and striding into court like you already know the outcome.
Confidence isn’t as nebulous as it seems; certain characteristics or traits help paint the picture of personal strength and surety and anyone with the willingness or desire can practice until those tell-tale signs become part of their character. Also, as with many things in life, there’s some wisdom in the old adage, “fake it ’til you make it.” Act confident, mimic the behaviors of people you admire as such, and eventually your own confidence in your abilities will develop in an authentic way that others will emulate.
Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!
Much of communication is nonverbal. That means you’re doing much of your talking without saying a word.
Of course, you don’t realize it. You’re focused on what you’re saying—the words that are coming out of your mouth. What you don’t know is that your body is saying something else. And that something else doesn’t jive with what you’re saying.
We often are unaware of our body language and this is especially true when we’re under stress. There are times when it’s crucial for us to project confidence. The last thing we want is to send the wrong message. Fortunately, it’s easy to be aware of your body language once you start paying attention to it. Here’s how to keep things under control.
Without saying a word
Your body language is a crucial part of how and what you are silently communicating. The actual words we use are what others will focus on. Problems arise, however, when the nonverbal messages we put out are inconsistent with what we say. It doesn’t matter how precisely we speak, as those words will take on a different meaning.
This is important to remember, especially if your objective is to come across as confident while you’re speaking. Keep these 4 nonverbal areas in mind:
- Maintain eye contact. Your inability to look someone in the eye as you speak to them can communicate that you are not sincere. Or worse, the person you’re talking to may decide that you are telling a lie.
- Use open gestures. It’s not necessary to gesticulate wildly, but do make sure that you use your hands and arms to underscore what you’re saying. These movements help people to see that you are confident in what you’re telling them. Nod your head in when they’re talking to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re agreeing with them, but it does acknowledge that you’re listening.
- Pace yourself appropriately. Much can be read from the tone, inflection, and pace of your speaking voice. Obviously, it depends on the subject matter—but some topics need a more subdued and measured style to indicate the importance of what’s being said. A drastic rise in your inflection may give off the impression that you are either upset or the topic has an emotional impact on you.
- An upright posture. This is easier to accomplish if you’re standing, of course, but confident people sit and stand upright. They may bend their head toward the person they’re speaking to, but otherwise, remember what your mother told you about sitting up straight in your chair. Folding your arms may communicate that you are uncomfortable or that you dislike the person you’re talking to. Professionals often cross their legs in conversations, but get that fidgety foot under control if you have a tendency to shake it.
Practice makes perfect
Try this exercise to practice your confident posture. Start by sitting in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. To make sure you have upright posture, imagine there’s a thread attached to the top of your head. It’s gently pulling you upwards. The more it pulls, the more you feel yourself become taller as your spine straightens. Your chin is parallel to the floor.
Now it’s time to turn your attention to your arms. Make sure they’re open—because you’ll need them to gesture. It means they’re not going to be crossed or placed across your body in any way. Rest your hands gently in your lap.
Imagine that a mirror image of yourself is sitting directly in front of you. Look the image directly in the eyes and smile. It’s a smile of assurance, ease, and warmth. It’s confident.
It might help to try a breathing exercise while you’re at it. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 3, and then out to the count of 5. A steady pace of breathing will stimulate your physical relaxation response. It’ll help to reduce any stress you’re feeling.
Take this exercise to the next level if you do any public speaking. Stand up, with your feet spread slightly so that you have an even distribution of your weight. Move your hands as you speak, making sure that you show your palms to your mirror image as you gesture. Feel free to take a few steps as you speak, but don’t take your attention away from your mirror image.
You might be thinking that this exercise would be much easier if you actually did it in front of a mirror. Congratulations! Now you’re getting into the confidence mode. The more you practice, the less stress you’ll feel about what your body language. It’ll be on the same page with you.
Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!