Number 14 of “19 for 19” – “Listening”

#experience #publicspeaking #weshowup #courtroomsavvy #presence #podiumperfect

Courthouse Picture

I recently found myself sitting next to one of our expert witnesses as he prepared to testify in a jury trial. During a break, we found ourselves lamenting the current state of our national discourse and its lack of civility. I noted one recent televised interview where a respected journalist of many years did not allow for the interviewee (a former high-ranking US government official) to finish a sentence. It was remarkable to me that the official stayed present and otherwise genuinely interested to get at the heart of the truth of the matter. He calmly clarified the questions that were posed in rapid fire fashion, not in an argumentative way, but in an earnestly curious sort of way. When the answers are of little consequence, this reminded me of a seldom effective cross-examination style.

Lesser personalities would have worked to match this “champing at the bit” style by listening less and less to the interviewer’s questions and focusing instead on getting a word in edgewise. Just then, the expert smiled and said, “Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned that. I need to remember to listen to the questions, not get my answers ready as the question is being asked.”

It’s such a satisfying moment, when our witness preparation work seems to happen naturally. When he laughed and asked, “just how do I do this, remembering under pressure?” I told him to trust the training, but mostly to stay present. “Conduct an inner narration that keeps you focused on the present.” Once you’re in the moment, stars align and you are able to remember all those little things you feared forgetting, on the stand or at the podium.

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