Credibility can play an important role in determine the outcome of your case. If testimony from either party comes across as improbable or unreasonable it can seriously harm your chances of getting what you want. Since opposing counsel is going to do everything in their power to demean your reliability it is essential for you to project credibility to the Judge in the case. Below are three easy ways to project credibility when taking the witness stand.
1. Dress the part
If possible, you should dress in business attire for your court appearance. Dressing in proper attire can create a “halo effect” meaning people will view you in a more positive light and will be more willing to look past any minor mistakes you make. The pioneering study on the halo effect was conducted by psychologist E.L. Thorndike who studied the effect in the early 1900’s and noticed that, “when an individual is found to possess one desirable trait, that individual is assumed to have many other desirable traits too.” If you think Judges do not care about appearance then think again. At least one Judge in the District of Columbia Superior Court keeps extra shirts and ties for parties to use if they do not own any.
2. Make eye contact with the Judge and Opposing Counsel
A recent study by Northwestern University confirms what many have been saying for a long time, that eye contact builds trust. When being questioned by opposing counsel maintaining eye contact can work for you in a couple ways. One, it can demonstrate to opposing counsel that you are not timid and that counsel will not be able to bully you on the stand and two by displaying your trustworthiness it can throw opposing counsel off of their game. If the Judge asks you a question directly making eye contact while answering can impact your credibility by coming across as trustworthy to the Judge.
3. Answer the questions directly
As bad as you may want to expand on a question asked by your attorney or rebut a question phrased by opposing counsel do not do it. Remember, it is your attorney’s job to rebut opposing counsel’s assertions and to make objections when necessary. Moreover, your attorney should be asking questions in a manner that enables all the necessary details to be divulged during trial. By answering questions firmly and directly you will come across as competent and credible to the fact finder.
Following the three tips above is a good starting point to strengthening your case by being a credible witness.
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