There is one trial skill that will take your trial practice to the next level. Mastering this skill has the capacity to change almost everything.
Want to know what it is?
Gotta give this episode a listen. You might be surprised.
EPISODE 36 TRANSCRIPTION
When you are up against a hostile room of people who don't want to be there, you need real strategies that get results. Welcome to From Hostage to Hero, the show that gives you practical advice you can use right now in the courtroom, boardroom, or classroom. Learn how to move your unwilling audience to one that is invested in what you're saying, eager to participate, and engaged in the process. Learn from the attorney whisperer herself, your host, Sari de la Motte.
Sari de la Motte:
Well, hello and welcome to another episode of From Hostage to Hero. Today we are talking about the number one trial skill of all time, and I know that you are just waiting with bated breath to hear what it is. And so without further ado, here's what it is. What, you didn't hear that? Breathing. Breathing. Breathing is the number one trial skill of all time.
Now, before you think I've gone and lost my marbles, let's talk about some stuff when it comes to breathing. Now, I've talked about breathing a lot in other podcasts. And so I may repeat myself here, and I and I apologize in advance. I wanted to do a podcast on breathing so you could find it easily because it's such a huge, huge topic that comes up in my work all the time. So I wanted to make it really accessible for anyone looking or searching the podcasts to find one particularly on breathing and this is it.
All right, so let's start out with some basics. Obviously breathing is important because you need it to survive. So that's not what I'm talking about when I'm talking about breathing being the number one trial skill. What I am talking about is that you have to be focused, and consistent, and have control over your breathing if you ever want to be great at trial. For a few reasons.
Now before I go into those reasons, let's talk about how most of us usually breathe. So most of us will take about 5 to 10 breaths per minute, when 15 to 20 is optimal. So we're breathing at much faster rate than we, I'm sorry. I said that wrong. So we're taking 15 to 20, when we should be taking 5 to 10 per-minute because we're breathing too quickly. We're not filling up our lung capacity. Most of us don't use our diaphragm at all because we're only filling the top part of our lungs. Okay?
And here's the issue with that. Is that when you aren't breathing well, and what I mean by well is you're filling all of your lungs with oxygen, and you've got your breathing under control, and you are not in fight or flight, which we're going to talk about in just a moment. When you're not breathing well, you will communicate it.
So let's talk about the fight or flight. So when you aren't breathing well, so you are only filling up, really, top of your lungs. Really breathing short, not pausing a lot, speaking kind of like what I'm doing now. And you're kind of what we call high breathing, it's all up at the front of the chest. And you're doing really fast. What you do, you activate your sympathetic nervous system.
Now, your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your fight or flight response. Which means that, depending on whatever you're feeling, the reason that you're breathing high or at a faster rate, could be one of two things. Really could be one of three things. You could be in a position where you need to fight, fight off a bear, fight off a person. So if that's the case, your sympathetic nervous system is now going to send blood flow to the arms. Okay? So it's like, you're going to fight. So your body is saying, okay, great. I will send resources to the arms.
If you are in a situation where you need to flee, so fight or flight response, you need to flee, the body's going to send the signals to the legs, and the blood flow will increase to the legs, so you can take off and get the hell out of there. Then there's also the third response, which is freeze. Where you just kind of go deer-in-headlights kind of thing, and you can't move at all.
Now, when you are in fight or flight, I want you to think about this, you are in survival mode. Which means that you are only looking out for one person. And who's that person? Yep. You're just looking out for yourself. Now, we talk a lot about leadership at trial, and you have to be a leader. And leader this and leader that. And may I just suggest that no one, jurors especially, are going to follow someone who is not breathing well and communicating, I'm in this to keep myself safe.
I don't feel safe. So you shouldn't feel safe. And I'm only in this to save myself. So you guys are all on your own. That gets communicated.
And you think, well, how does breathing get communicated? Sorry. Well, just think about it. If I'm not breathing high and I'm using a particular voice pattern, and like right now I'm using the approachable voice pattern. So everything's kind of curling up. And well, how do I sound? I kind of sound ditzy and stupid. And if I'm breathing high, and I'm using the authoritative voice pattern where the voice curls down now, I sound kind of angry and impatient.
So breathing will affect your tone of voice. There's one way that it's communicated. For example, now that I'm breathing fine and I curl the voice down, I now sound definitive and fair. And if I want to curl the voice up juror number seven, can you tell me about that? Am I breathing fine? I'm using the approachable voice pattern. Now I just sound open and friendly.
So breathing gets communicated in both situations. In the first situation, you sound ditzy, stupid, or impatient and angry. In the second situation when you're breathing low and you pair that with voice tone, now you sound definitive, fair, or friendly and open.
So that's one way that breathing gets communicated. It also gets communicated through your movement. When you're not breathing well, you're going to have much more stiff body language. You're going to move in a little more jerky way. Your movements won't be fluid. Now, will jurors be able to look at that and go, oh, that person's not breathing well? No, not necessarily. Sometimes. If they're a mock jury, in our studio they might, because they might have seen me talk about this. But they will know that something is off.
It also effect your voice in terms of shakiness. If you're nervous, if you're not pausing, your speech will be very quick. If you're not breathing well, all of those things get communicated to your jury. And the problem with that is that they all communicate that you are nervous, scared, whatever it might be. And that you are only looking out for yourself.
Angry, you could also be communicating that you're angry and you're only looking out for yourself. Or that you are viewing, in terms of anger, this process as one that is personal and that you are personally offended, which is also not great. I'm happy to do a podcast episode on anger. I think that would be a great one to talk about anger in court. So it does get communicated.
One of my greatest stories, and you've heard me say it probably a million times, but I just love this story of breathing communicated is the one of Captain Sullenberger.
You know, he's the one, the captain of the flight that took off from LaGuardia, January 15th. I think it was 2009. And as the airplane ascended it had a double bird strike, which means the birds went into the engines, obviously died, but so did the engines. And so now he's flying this commercial jet with 155 people on board. And he has no jet power, no engines. And he's got to make a split-second decision.
And so he calls back to the tower who suggests he come back. And he can't, he and his infinite wisdom, thank goodness, probably saved hundreds of lives, those both on the ground and the plane, thought, there's no way I can make it back. So he makes the decision to land it in the Hudson River. Now, what's so great about this story is that if you go back and read some of the news stories, the passengers on the plane, many of them brought up a moment where Captain Sullenberger came on the intercom, and they said he spoke three words and they all just felt calm and like he knew what he was doing.
Now when I ask my seminar attendees, what do you think those three words were? They'll say things like, "I've got this," or, "God loves you," or "We'll be okay." Or whatever. And most of them don't realize that the three words that he said were brace for impact. Now I ask you, how on earth are those words comforting? I mean, how could they calm anybody down? Those are about the last three words that I, or anyone on an airplane, would ever want to hear from the pilot.
Here's the point, it's not what he said, it's how he said it. He said it with good breathing. The message that the people received on the plane was, I've got this. You're in good hands. I've got this handled. And by the way, that's the exact message that jurors also need to receive from you. Especially at the beginning of trial.
At the beginning of trial, jurors, as you know is my thing, I believe that jurors are hostages. They feel like hostages. Now, do they cognitively think of themselves as hostages? Maybe, most likely not. They're feeling inconvenienced, so on and so forth. But technically they are hostages. They've been brought there against their will, and forced to participate in a process that they don't understand or believe in.
So they are already, themselves, probably not breathing well. Which is why court, by its very nature, is a terrible place to breathe. Everyone and everything is breathing high in court. There's a lot at stake, there are people that don't want to be there. I'm sure your client doesn't want to be there. The defense, nobody wants to be there. I mean, let's just be honest. Nobody really wants to be at trial. Except for maybe my clients, who just get excited about all the skills they learned. They want to go try it out. Oh, I love you guys.
So you have to really go against your instincts when it comes to breathing. And you've got to breathe not just for yourself, but for the entire room. And that is hard to do. Because we, not only is breathing communicated, it's contagious. We take our breathing cues from the speaker. Meaning that whatever is happening, whoever's speaking, communicating, whatnot. If they're not breathing well, if we allow them to continue for any length of time, then we will start to adopt their breathing patterns. Unless we're very conscious of not doing that.
I remember being at my first Take Back the Courtroom seminar with Rick Friedman, and he had me speak. And I'd spoken on breathing. I was telling them very much some of the same things that we're talking about right now. And then he showed a video afterwards of a clip. I think it was the 30 B6 guy in his big Propofol case in Nevada. Won 104 million on that case, I was there for jury selection.
And so he had the guy on the stand, and that man was absolutely sputtering. He was, I don't, it's not exactly what I'm saying, or, that kind of thing. And he was doing that. And Rick was showing the clip for about two or three minutes. The minute that he stopped the clip, you could just feel the room, all 200 attorneys in the CLE were absolutely, 100% holding their breath. And you can almost hear a collective ah when the video went off.
Even from a video, we adopt the breathing cues from the speaker. Now think about that for a minute. That's kind of a huge deal. Because that not only means that you have to go against your instincts and breathe low and slow for the jury and yourself. It also means, and this is the really cool part, that you have the ability to affect the breathing of the jury.
Meaning you can help them get out of their own fight or flight. Which is probably what they're already in, the way that court is set up and the way that they're kind of treated like cattle and herded around. They're already in their kind of fight or flight place. You can help them relax and become receptive.
Because here's the big thing about breathing. I think I had a podcast several months ago on permission. And the way that we define permission around here is how receptive someone is to you or your message. And permission is primarily increased through nonverbal intelligence. Meaning, the things that you're doing non-verbally will increase permission with your audience, which is why we focus so heavily on nonverbal intelligence. Which is why my book, From Hostage to Hero, is all about systematically increasing permission with jurors so that they eventually move out of their hostage state into a hero state, where they want to voluntarily take action for you and your client. That requires a systematic increase of permission. And you increase that permission by doing things non-verbally that we teach you both here in the podcast and in the book.
But the other thing to also keep in mind is that permission, whether you have it or not, is often communicated through breathing or lack thereof. Meaning when people say, well, okay, I'm working really hard on increasing permission with my audience. Of any kind, jurors or otherwise. But how do I know if I have it?
I always say to them, well, how are they breathing? And then that brings up another question, which is how the hell do I know that? Well, here's the thing. Just like that 30 B6 guy on the stand, you can listen to how someone is speaking and tell if they're breathing. So if they're having trouble, hmm, finding words, not breathing well. If their movements are jerky and not flowing, if they have stiff body language, all of those things communicate that they're not breathing well, and therefore you have don't have very much permission.
In fact, you can also just tap in to the feeling of the room. Does it feel like the air's been sucked out of the room, literally? Then you've lost permission. Now people say, well, how are breathing and permission connected? Well, if someone has stopped breathing, or is not breathing well, they have now gone into fight or flight. They are now in survival mode, which means they are not thinking, or listening, or receptive to anything except for, how the hell do I get out of here?
I mean, it's just logical. You have no permission with someone who is in their own fight or flight, looking for a way out. You have permission-slash-receptivity with someone who's breathing well, and functioning okay, and still versus stiff, and able to hear you and communicate with you. So breathing is huge when it comes to permission. Because it helps you get permission, the lower people breathe the more comfortable they are.
It helps you read permission, so that you can see whether you've lost it. Because if you go back to that episode on permission, you'll remember or realize that permission is a thermometer of sorts. It's not like once you have it, you have it forever. It's you increasing it. But you can also just stick your foot in your mouth and lose it just as fast as you increase it, and then you have to spend time building it again. So it's not a static thing. It's something that goes up and down.
Now, when you are breathing well, you teach the jury to breathe well because it's contagious. But here's the other thing I want you to be thinking about. Is that your breathing communicates to jurors, or anyone else, how you are. How comfortable you are. I always joke that there's a great quote that I love because I wrote it, which is, "Authenticity shows people who you are. But breathing shows people how you are." Meaning it communicates, I'm comfortable. I'm safe. You're safe too.
We can tell people all day long through our content, through our verbal communication that they're safe. But until we can communicate to them non-verbally that they're safe, they won't believe us. I mean, think about this. Have you ever said to someone, especially female, just calm down? Has that helped them calm down? No. Just telling someone to calm down, just telling someone that they're safe is not enough. You have to communicate that you are safe too.
And the number one way you communicate safety is by actually showing jurors, through your breathing, that you feel safe. And again, I'm asking you to go against your instincts. Because, let's think about this for a moment. How can you feel safe in front of this hostile group of people that don't want to be there. There are probably people in this pool, if we're talking about starting at jury selection, who hate you, and don't want to give you money, and think that you're all the bad things that society tells them that you are.
And I'm asking you, really, to stand in front of this group and feel safe? Yes, that's exactly what I'm asking you to do. Because here's the huge part of this. Here we go into the mindset work again. Is that if you are waiting for something outside of yourself to let you, or communicate to you, or make you feel safe, you've got this backwards my friend. Safety comes from within. It means that you can stand in front of a hostile group. And you can make mistakes, and risk things, and do whatever it takes to get justice for your client.
Because you know whatever happens, whatever happens, that you create your own safety. That there's nothing that this jury can do or say to knock you off your game. And you say that's easier said than done. Well, hell yeah it's easier said than done. I'm not saying anything else.
What I'm saying is then get it done. Stop telling me it's so hard, sorry, and start working on your mindset. And start walking into the courtroom, breathing, shoulders back, going I've got this shit. Start telling yourself that you've got this, instead of all the other bullshit that you put in your head, that you think doesn't matter but absolutely takes you off your game. And it has you breathing high, which then communicates to the jury that you're not safe. Then they shouldn't be safe. And boom, now we're down that road.
You've got to get your mind right. Which is going to affect how you breathe, which is going to affect how the jurors breathe, which is going to increase their receptivity and their permission. And now we're on a different road completely. So the question becomes, how do I become a better breather? People ask me that all the time. And I always say, well, you're doing it already. That's the good news. Now you just need to bring attention to it. You really just do.
And we're thinking about this. If you take a moment and just tap into your breathing, and just be aware of it, your body will start doing what it's meant to do. Because breathing is so automatic, it's out of our awareness. And therefore we don't know how we're breathing most of the time. So I suggest to people to start a breathing practice. I don't want to call it a meditation practice, or anything that fancy. Just start a breathing practice. Just lay down 5 minutes, 10 minutes every day. In the evening, morning, I don't care, and just focus on your breath. Just start getting some muscle memory of what it feels like to breathe deeply and calmly so that you can access that under stressful conditions like trial.
That's the thing. You got to have some muscle memory of what it feels like to breathe calmly so that you can access it when you're under stress. Because that's what trial is, right? A highly stressful situation. And you want to be able to access your breathing, and communicate your calmness to the jury. This is a practice, okay? This is a thing you've got to practice doing. In trial and other places, you've got to start bringing awareness to your breathing, and start being purposeful about how you want to show up in trial.
And you won't get it right the first time. You've got to be willing to go in there and go, damn it, I was breathing really high. That's where it starts.
Jesus, in the Propofol case with Rick Friedman. I'm texting Rick fucking Friedman, breathe brother. Right? I mean the best, one of the best trial juries in the nation needed reminders about breathing. So don't be hard on yourself.
But I'll tell you, number one comment we get. I mean, number one from the people who come to the studio is, "I never realized how big a deal breathing is." How much it changes everything, how much jurors notice when I'm not breathing well, how it affects my content, how it affects my movements. "Breathing is everything." They keep saying that to me. "Sari, breathing's everything."
And I say, I know brother and sister. I know. That's what I keep preaching about breathing. It's a big, big deal. Breathe. It's the number one trial skill for a variety of reasons. I've already shared many of them with you. It communicates safety to jurors, it keeps jurors open and receptive, but it also helps you access your content that you spent months preparing. Okay? It does so much for you. If you're not breathing, nothing else matters.
And I don't mean not breathing like dead breathing. But if you're breathing high, and stressed and nervous the whole time, you can't think on your feet. You can't do all the things that trial requires you to do. Trial's an unscripted event. You've got to be in the moment. And breathing keeps you in the moment. It keeps you present.
So there's about 50-million reasons why you should be focused on your breathing, and why it's so important. So go out there, breathe, buy the book. Buy the book, trialguides.com. Get on our wait list at fromhostagetohero.com so you'll know when the membership opens, that goes along with the book. And we'll talk to you soon. Thanks everybody.
That's it for this episode of From Hostage to Hero. But head to our website, saridlm.com, for other must-have resources from Sari de la Motte. Read the transcript of this podcast, watch trial tip videos, or download your free copy of Sari's article, Why Jurors Hate The Hobby Question. We're glad you joined us today. And until next time, remember that to lead a hostage to freedom, you must first free yourself.
If you liked this episode topic, check out these others:
- Episode #117 – The Four Components of Presence
- Episode 23 – Stop Wasting Your Mistakes
- Episode #85 – The One Source of Wisdom You’re Probably Ignoring
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