Mindfulness in the Courtroom
Have you ever found yourself in court? A witness for the prosecution? A witness for the defence?
On trial? Facing a tribunal? Or in a difficult committee meeting? Or speaking in an Inquiry. Here is a list of pointers for calm and clear communication when under sustained pressure.
Most important point to remember of all – Speak that which you genuinely perceive is in accordance with the facts and is useful to state.
If you are in court, remember the following:
1. BODY LANGUAGE
Do not wear garish, bright clothing but toned down clothes. Too much colour could give impression of being untrustworthy.
Keep the body upright; with back straight and hips moved gently forward to expand stomach for easier natural breathing
Keep the hands still (movement distracts and gives impression of excitement or agitation).
Keep both feet flat on the floor to keep centred and grounded
Don’t drop the head. It gives the impression of defeat.
Drink water regularly – also gives a little breathing space in difficult periods
2. SKILFUL SPEECH
Never raise the voice. It always sounds like denial, avoidance or simply losing the argument
Speak 10% quieter than normal. It makes the lawyers listen with more care and respect
Speak from your heart, not from your mind
Avoid ums and aghs. It sounds as if you experiencing self-doubt in what you say
Keep the sentences short, to the point, free from exaggerated or flowery language.
Answer every question politely. Their lawyer will try to rattle you. Don’t grab onto their barbs.
If it is a difficult question, or you sense a trap, ask their lawyer to rephrase the question. E.g. ‘Could you explain that question, please?’
Under undue pressure, turn to the judge, arbitrator or chairperson for help. Explain the difficulty. Perhaps you feel their lawyer ignored your earlier answers. The judge will appreciate your turning to him/her for advice.
Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself regularly in a calm and clear voice. ‘As I said previously...’
Always take your time to answer difficult questions. It is better to wait a few seconds than answer rapidly and regret it later.
There are several ways to answer a question
5. Ask a question black. Could you rephrase the question? or Do you mean...?
7. If a question is general, answer in a specific example
8. If specific, answer in the general
9. State in a couple of sentences a point that you have not been asked and wish to make.
Keep referring to any earlier written statement. Remember their lawyer may be trying to set traps –
namely what you say in the witness box is in conflict with any written statement. Keep your answers to the point.
If you need breathing space, ask for it, especially in a difficult period!
If you get angry with their lawyer, make a short apology, referring to the pressure of the situation.
Don’t hesitate to ask for a question to be put in a different way.
Make use of simple statements so the judge can empathise and understand you.
Try to speak in the positive. I.e. I do say that....rather than I don’t.
Try to finish on a strong note. “I am glad I have had the opportunity to clarify all the important questions that you have raised!’
PS. Never forget that the courtroom is not necessarily about uncovering and revealing truth. It is often about winning and losing, victory and defeat. Speak what you know for yourself is factual and useful without attachment to results.