Source of the following article Persuasive Litigator.
By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
It is one of the central messages of witness preparation: Be confident, because if you’re confident, you’ll be more credible. Once, I got the reply from a witness, “But I don’t feel confident,” and the question, “Should I act confident even if I don’t feel it?” The short answer, “Yes.” The longer answer is, “Let’s work on the reasons you aren’t feeling confident, but at the same time, let’s focus on the behaviors that convey confidence.” That’s the right approach because the behaviors matter independently. In one study, researchers from the University of Utah, Notre Dame, and Berkeley (Tenney et al., 2018) looked at the consequences of being overconfident, testing the credibility of an answer that later turned out to be wrong. They found that when expressed verbally, the overconfidence could be a liability. But when conveyed nonverbally, even unwarranted confidence still adds credibility.
One of the easiest indicators of nonverbal credibility is vocal volume, or loudness. The same study cites research showing that simply speaking with a little volume — not shouting, of course, but louder than personal conversation — creates the impression, at least, of greater confidence. Along with eye contact, posture, and facial expression, a voice with some volume conveys that you are committed and sure of what you’re saying. The reason that it is an easy confidence hack is that, for most witnesses at least, it is easier to speak a little louder than it is to model the more nuanced behaviors of confidence such as facial expression or even eye contact. In this post, I’ll share a few thoughts on ways to get a witness to speak up.
Compare Yourself to Counsel
It is important for witnesses to understand that it is not just about being heard by the court reporter. If the reporter needs to ask you to repeat, then it is a severe problem. The typical attorney will tend to speak more loudly than the typical witness, not to be more clearly heard on record, but to demonstrate dominance. Either explicitly or implicitly, that attorney knows that it is more powerful and commanding to project a bit. So a good technique for the witness is to listen to the attorney’s volume and, as long as the attorney is within a normal range, try to match that volume. That shows that you’re as comfortable with the answers as the attorney is with the questions.
Watch Yourself on Video
One reason a witness might be speaking quietly is because they are not good at self-monitoring: They simply don’t hear how loudly or how softly they are speaking. To some extent, this is to be expected since their attention is on the questions and the substance of their answers. For that reason, it is a good idea for witnesses to see how they come across when they are just watching and not performing. So video-record sections of practice and play it back. Sometimes it is not even about offering criticism on their delivery, since too much of that can reduce confidence. Give the witness an opportunity to see and hear themselves, and often they’ll self-correct.
Live practice is also essential for correcting low volume and a variety of other low-confidence behaviors. In addition to sharing the advice to speak up and match the attorney’s volume, I will often encourage witnesses to imagine that they are presenting: Instead of sitting at a table and speaking to one person, imagine you’re giving a presentation to a small group. Many, and especially those with at least a little public speaking experience, will adapt their style and project more. In addition, it is sometimes effective to try redo’s:
Could you give that same answer, but a little louder?
Okay, a little louder than that?
Just a little more? … perfect!
Once witnesses do get used to delivering more strongly, they’ll often find that they’ll start to feel a little more confident as well.
Other Posts on Voice:
- Energize Your Voice
- Tune Your Witness’s Tone of Voice
- Compensate for Dry Style or Dry Material: Seven Ways
Tenney, E. R., Meikle, N. L., Hunsaker, D., Moore, D. A., & Anderson, C. (2018). Is overconfidence a social liability? The effect of verbal versus nonverbal expressions of confidence. Journal of personality and social psychology.
Image credit: 123rf.com, used under license