Deposition of a Party or Witness and the Power of Dignified Demeanor

While watching a news report on the oppression of people inside of Russia and attempts to control every aspect of their lives, I heard the following quote:

Victor Frankl ~ “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” March 26, 2013

This quote reminded me of a point I often make to witnesses and clients… you cannot control the questions you are asked or the tone and attitude of the questioner. However, you have absolute control over your own demeanor and how you choose to respond. You can stay polite and calm in the face of harsh and demeaning questioning or you can respond in kind.

If you respond in kind, the jury will forget the fact that the questioner was rude and arrogant, and instead focus on the witness or party’s lack of composure. The questioner will feel empowered and extend his line of attack sensing blood in the water.

On the other hand, if the witness or party remains truthful, polite and calm the questioner will be revealed as an arrogant bully. The questioner will become discouraged and cut short his examination. The battle of wits will be won.

As Sun Tzu notes in the Art of War:

“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

Their is no greater irritant to a bully than remaining calm and composed. Remind your client or witness of their freedom to choose their attitude and control their demeanor. This advice will empower and cut short abusive questioning at trial or during a deposition.

Posted on March 6, 2022, in depositions, dos and don'ts, testimony, Trial Advocacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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