Welcome to today's podcast episode — a VIP backstage pass to the covert world of nonverbal influence in the courtroom.
I know you're searching for answers, eager to master the art of nonverbal communication, and your Finnish mama is here to deliver. But not in the way you expect. 😜
I'm giving you the lowdown on eye contact, voice, and body language, under ONE condition — promise me you'll use these steps to be strategic, purposeful, and to ethically enhance the work you're already doing, not to manipulate or replace it.
Alright, I’ll leave ya to it.
EPISODE 237 TRANSCRIPTION
Hey, hey, hey. Welcome. Today, we're talking about nonverbal influence. It's not what you think. I know, are you surprised I'm talking about this? Because I've been railing against persuasion, influence, and all the things for years. When I first started, even before I got into law, people wanted to call me a body language expert. I was like, "Oh hell, no. I'm not a body language expert." I'm not reading people's nonverbals, and telling you this means that or that means this. I don't think that can be done. I think that's educated guessing. I always laugh when I see it in People Magazine. Oh, "Body language expert says Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are getting divorced," or all that shit. It's stupid, it's dumb. I hate all of that.
And I hate it also, here in the legal field, because I feel like you use it as a quick fix or a gimmick.
So I've tried to steer you away from it, because I love you, and I know that your job is so fucking hard, but I know that you're looking for the answer. And so you're trying these grand gestures, you're trying mirroring, and you're trying to use really intense eye contact or weird-ass things that I have seen over time.
And you may remember the story that I told you about where I was actually in a criminal trial. I started my work in criminal defense. And we had four days of voir dire, by the way. We had four days. Can you imagine, plaintiff attorneys? It was like Xanadu. But we also had questionnaires that the jurors had to fill out in advance. And one of the questions on the questionnaire was to rate various people, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, judges, so on and so forth, as either very honest, honest, dishonest, or very dishonest. And as you might imagine, most people rated criminal defense attorneys as dishonest or very dishonest.
So there was one woman who had put "very dishonest." And so the attorney, not the one I was working with, stood up, because I was with the other guy, and said, "Juror so-and-so, you put on your form that you view criminal defense attorneys as very dishonest. Is that right?" And she said, "Yes." He said, "Now," and he made this big effort to walk over to his client and put his hands on his client's shoulders, and he said, "Is that going to affect how you view my client ..." He couldn't even finish the sentence, and the woman goes, "That, right there, that's what I'm talking about. You are trying to manipulate me." And I was like, "Oh my God. So this is what I've tried to avoid doing it all.
Now, if you are in the H2H Crew, we're talking all the time about all the cool things you can be doing with nonverbal communication.
I thought today I would share a few of them with you, with the caveat that you promise to only use this to enhance the work that you are doing, not to replace it, and that you are fucking doing the work. So do the work, do the work. Now that we've all agreed on that, and you're obeying your Finnish mother, let's begin.
There are a million ways that you can non-verbally "influence," and I'm just going to talk about a few, but let me first define what I mean by nonverbal influence. If you look up the word "influence," the definition of it is to have an effect.
Here's what I want you to understand, you are always having an effect non-verbally.
There is never a time, unless you are dead or asleep, and if you sleep like my husband you're still having an effect because he snores, but you are always having an effect on someone non-verbally.
The question is, are you doing it on purpose? Are you being strategic about it? You know if you've been out here, the jurors notice everything. You can be playing with your ring and not even know you're doing it, a lot of male attorneys do this for some reason, and the jurors will damn well point it out. They notice everything. So that's an example of what I'm talking about. But I want to talk about three areas and then give you a little bonus one today, about some nonverbal cool things you can do to enhance the work you're already doing. So we're going to talk about eye contact, voice, and body language.
First, eye contact.
Now, how do you use eye contact? Well, most of you use it like you're trying to seduce the jury, which frankly is creepy and weird. Please stop doing that immediately, if not sooner. Like no, no, don't be using it as a way to... Whatever you're trying to do, no. Eye contact is uncomfortable, especially amongst strangers. So whoever told you that that is a great way to connect, it's not a great way to connect, unless you have permission to look, which you oftentimes do later in voir dire. But as a gimmick, out of the gate, no.
Here's how it can actually be used to your advantage. You have to remember one thing, people will look where you look. Now we often say people follow your eyes, not your hands. When I'm teaching presenters, for example, on how to use visuals, I always say, "You can point at the visual, or at the PowerPoint, or your flip chart, or whatever visual you're using, all the live long day, but unless you are looking there, no one's going to look there." So it does you absolutely no good to point at something, and keep eye contact with the audience that you hope is looking at the thing you're pointing at. You've got to actually look and point.
Now, the way we're going to use it here is in an influential way. And again, none of these are gimmicks, these are all, again, in my mind, ways to support what you're doing, not try to trick or manipulate people.
For example, in the designed alliance that we talk about in here, when we start our jury selection and we say, "How many of you've been through jury selection and what do you think we're trying to do?" And they'll say things like, "Well, you're going to ask us questions." And, "Why do you think we're asking you questions?" "Well, you want to see who's good for your case or who's bad for your case." And we say, "Well, I don't like to do it that way. I prefer that you have a say in this process. But in order for you to have a say in this process, we have to have a conversation. Who's willing to have a conversation?"
So we get that all done. And then after that I say, "Okay, now two caveats. One, we can't talk about facts or evidence. Is that okay with you?" Blah, blah, blah. We designed around that. There's a reason why I designed around that one specifically, I'm not going to go into it right now. The second thing I say is, "And the second caveat is if you tell me at the end of this conversation that you do not want to be here or that you do want to be here, know that I'm limited in what I can do about that, because there is," and here's the influence part, "another side represented." Now, if you're watching this video of this podcast, you'll see that I gestured and turned and looked at my imaginary defense counsel.
Now what does that do? That non-verbally sends the message that if you tell me that you don't want to be here and yet you're still get on the jury, it's their fault. Because there's another side represented here, and they get to make some choices too. So, "Knowing that I can't guarantee that you either get to stay or go home, are you still going to have the conversation," blah, blah, blah, blah. The point is, is by using this little trick of people are going to follow my eyes, not my hands, I can get the jury to look at defense counsel and associate in their brain, "Oh, if my choice isn't made either to stay or to go, it's their fault, not my fault."
Now, here's the caveat, you cannot use that as a gimmick. You cannot do that, and then have a good juror for you tell you that they don't want to be there and then you don't kick them off. You don't use a peremptory on them because you're like, "Well, I'm going to throw that under their bucket." That's not fair, that's not cool. Don't do that. That's unethical. You have to mean what you say, because part of our design is I will do everything in my power to honor your wishes, but I'm not the only voice here. I'm not the only decision-maker here.
So again, all the things I'm showing you today is to enhance and support what you're doing, the ethical things you're doing, they just make them stronger. This isn't a way to manipulate.
Another thing you can do with eye contact, is when you're objected to, which if you're using the H2H method you most likely will be objected to because it's new, it's awesome, and we're pushing the envelope and we're changing shit because that's what we do here at H2H. So you'll get objected to, which is not a bad thing. To me that's like, "Pay attention. This is important." Now what happens is, when you're having voir dire, you're most likely making eye contact with the people you're talking to. That's normal.
When you get objected to, many of you will freeze and continue to look at the jury. Now what happens in that scenario is the jury looks at you and will assume that you did something wrong. Versus someone objects, the minute you hear that you now turn and look at defense counsel, because they made the objection. Now what's that's going to do, it's going to force the jury to look there too. That's why you have to look, if you don't take your eyes there, none of this is going to matter. And now they're going to associate the objection with the defense counsel. Like, "Why are they interrupting this? What is their problem?" Once it gets worked out, you come back and you look at the jury and you continue. So again, something that supports what you're doing.
There are other ways that we talk about when we're talking about in group dynamics. How do we elevate leaders in a jury selection situation? How do we communicate to the other jurors that this person is a leader and we want them to be a leader? We give them lots of eye contact. Conversely, how do we communicate to the jury that this person is an outlier, and you should ignore them? We can teach the jury to ignore them. We never look at them. We never make eye contact with them. Bet you never thought about using eye contact in a systematic way of not looking at somebody. You guys are so trained to make eye contact, it never even enters your brain most of the time that you can use it and not look at people on purpose because you're trying to do some cool shit. Again in service to you, your case and your client, not to manipulate, not to be unethical.
Second, your voice.
Your voice is one of the coolest things you've got. Now, when I talk about voice and nonverbals, people are like, "How is that nonverbal?" Nonverbal doesn't mean no noise. Nonverbal means it's not directly related to a word, it's something beyond words. So when I talk about voice, I'm not talking about the words you're saying, I'm talking about how you're using your voice. That in itself is a nonverbal skill.
You can do something that we work on a lot in the Crew, which is called "non-verbally marking." For example, if you have a sentence, something very simple like, "The man walked across the road," I can non-verbally mark various words in that sentence and it completely changes the meaning of the sentence. Notice how I say it like this, "The man walked across the road." You're like, "Well, who should have crossed the road? The man wasn't supposed to? Was a woman supposed to?" So it immediately gives something in your brain. And notice how I not only just emphasized it, I kind of made it, "Can you believe this," kind of tone. That's called non-verbally marking.
Notice how if I do this, "The man walked across the road." Now you're thinking, "Well, he did? He should have ran," depending on what the story is. "He walked, isn't that weird?" "The man walked across the road." Now you're thinking, "Why did he cross the road, there's so much ... There must be a reason why he shouldn't have gone across it. He should stayed on the road." Or, "The man walked across the road." Like, "Can you believe that, that he crossed over the road and didn't stay on his side," or whatever it means. Just non-verbally marking can change the meaning of a sentence, or the way that we use it in the Crew a lot of times is to highlight a word. "They chose not to follow safety rules and therefore injured Mary Smith." I could just say that sentence, "They chose not to follow safety rules." Notice how when I non-verbally mark it, "they chose."
So, how do you non-verbally mark? There's a couple ways. You can make it a stronger "ch." "They chose." You can elongate the word, "they chose." You can have pauses before and after. "They chose not to follow safety rules." Notice how I marked "not" a little bit there, but not as much as "chose." "They chose not to follow safety rules and people got hurt." Non-verbally marking is a great way to really bring the jury's attention to words you want to highlight and "choose" is a great one. Lots of time ... Well, I'll come back to that in a minute because I have something else to say about that.
You can also play with things with your voice like speed, how fast or slow you're saying things. Oftentimes, when we get to a point in the opening where somebody died, I really want you to bring the voice volume down like I'm doing now and slow everything down. "Unfortunately, five days later, she died." It really brings gravity to the situation.
Conversely, we had a situation in the Crew recently where someone was working a case that had to do with a consent form, and how this one risk was buried in the consent form. And so I said, "Read that part where we say it's buried." We don't tell the jury it's buried. By the way, that's what these nonverbal things do, is they allow you to do things without words that you would normally do with words. "Look, it's buried here." That's not very persuasive.
And so showing them how buried it is, and I don't mean just by putting it up on a flip chart or a PowerPoint, but I said, "Why don't you read that really fast? This procedure may cause stroke, death," all the things. Read it really, really fast. And then I asked the group, I said, "What does that invoke when you hear all of those things coming at you at lightning speed?" And everybody said, "Pharmaceutical commercials." And I said, "And why does it remind you of ... Why do they do that in pharmaceutical commercials?" And they said, "Because they don't want you to focus on the bad things that could happen." I said, "Exactly." So notice how just speeding up your voice can create a nonverbal effect for juries that they sense there's a subliminal message there. Again, in service to what you're already doing, not as a gimmick, but to further illustrate your point and solidify your point.
Third, your body.
Gesturing is huge for nonverbal influence. It gives attention. So if we go back to that idea of I really want to elevate a particular jury member and really show the jury this is someone you should listen to, I'm going to gesture to that person a lot, because it gives attention. And whoever I'm giving attention to, I'm saying, "This person's important." By the way, if you're gesturing a lot to a juror and you don't mean to, you're accidentally making them a leader. So it's something to be thinking about.
Just the raising your hand non-verbal, is non-verbal influence because it tells the jury without having to tell the jury, "This is how I'd like to communicate with you. That if you have something to say, raise your hand." But what do most of you do? "If you want to talk to me, raise your hand." It's extra verbiage, you don't need it. Just raise your hand, that's the influence right there. It's saying, "I can communicate with you without using words." That's ballsy. That's a big deal. You're like, "Really? Raising your hand?" Yes, most people don't do it. It really shows command. You want to command the courtroom? There you go. Raise your hand without saying, "If you want to talk to me, raise your hand." Or, "Who wants to talk to me? Raise your hand." Just raise your hand. It shows command, it's awesome.
We talk about the difference between authoritative and approachable nonverbals. Authoritative was where your weight is over both feet, toes are pointed ahead, palms down, chin down, voice curling down. Just using that body language communicates command. It communicates, "I know what I'm talking about." But conversely, having your palms up, being overweighted to one side, toes not pointed forward, voice curling up, that can communicate if it's in the right context, "I'm open to hearing from you."
So, our nonverbals do influence many, many things. But I am going to end on nonverbal influence with one that, again, might sound like "How is that nonverbal?" And that's word choice. Word choice is nonverbal. Again, something that's not explicitly said is nonverbal in my mind. And word choice, depending on what you pick, sends different messages. For example, in a dog bite case, if I just keep calling the dog "the dog," you could think of a poodle, you could think of a Frenchie. My Frenchie is aggressive and is evil in her heart and soul. You would never know that. But if I say Frenchie to you, you are thinking cute little snugly faces. You say Frenchie to me now, I think someone who wants to bite your face off.
But the point is, is that I could keep saying "dog" and you wouldn't necessarily think anything more about it. But if I just say "Rottweiler," what immediately comes to mind? An aggressive dog. Now, obviously you're not going to say "Rottweiler" if it's not a Rottweiler, but if it is, why aren't you saying it? Because I mean, I don't have to say "aggressive," I just say "Rottweiler." I get it, I'm a dog lover, as unfair as that is. If we want to talk about codes and Raphael, it's a code. Rottweiler codes our brain aggressive. And we do have an aggressive Rottweiler here in our neighborhood. I think Coco could take them though. Seriously, that dog is evil.
Versus for example, "can" versus "must." Like in your teaching section, "Doctors can do this to avoid that outcome. Doctors can do that to avoid that outcome." Mm-mm, "must." "Doctors must do this in order to avoid this outcome. Doctors must do this to ensure patient safety." Get more active with your language. Not, "They can," "they must." This is my favorite one. A lot of you say, "And so they did not do this thing and this happened." That's a fact, but I like better, "They chose not to do X and then this happened." That word "chose." They had a choice and they could have chosen something else, which in nearly all cases they could have, that is a piss-off point for jurors. So use that whenever the hell you can use it.
I have tons of other examples, but that is the point here that you're non-verbally communicating all of the time. There are things that you can do that will support your message, will really solidify your message that you can really have some fun with, but are you doing them on purpose? That's what my nonverbal training back in the Crew is all about, is not to teach you gimmicks, but to say, you're constantly communicating non-verbally. Now let's do it purposely and strategically so that it supports what you're trying to do, versus taking things away.
If you want to learn more of the cool shit that we're doing, get on the waitlist, because I'm sharing all of this back there in my coaching and in other places. So we welcome you to come back there and learn some of this. But just so you know, I'm not against nonverbal influence, unless you're trying to use it as a gimmick or a quick fix. That's when I have a problem with it. All right, talk soon.
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