05 July 2022

How to be persuasive when holding a trial

The ability to convince a person through reasons or arguments to think in a certain way or do a certain thing, in short, the use of persuasive language is an essential quality for a lawyer who seeks to succeed in a trial.


We are talking about an ability that brings with it a certain risk for the speaker, due to its negative connotation, since Ancient Greece, the philosophers already began to separate themselves from the sophists who in many situations came to touch the fallacious argumentation for the pure pleasure of winning debates.


Contrary to what many think, these sophists who mastered the art of rhetoric, who intended nothing more or less than to persuade, find their etymology in sophós and not in sophía, coming closer to the meaning of charlatan than to wisdom. This suggests that persuasive ability is on a fine line between these two very similar tendencies, and for this reason we have to handle it with caution.


In order to hold a trial, we will take into account three pillars for effective persuasion that do not go beyond charlatanism and will not make us lose professionalism:


In the first place, these three are transmitting confidence, certainty and clarity, fundamental for the persuasion of the listener (magistrate, lawyer, etc.) about oneself and what one defends, as well as helping to create the feeling of security of everything that is being communicated. It corresponds to the cognitive response theory that explains the psychology of persuasion.


Secondly, when we speak of persuasive communication, we also mean being able to make reality look different and therefore take a different attitude and/or action than someone who would not do it on their own. For this reason, the preparation of the trial will revolve completely around the listener, who is not a passive subject, but processes the information based on his relative legal experience.


We have to start by putting ourselves in his shoes in reference to what he is going to hear and how he could react to it. Clearly defining the objective, as has already been said, clarity is a fundamental quality for a lawyer and, in the same way, in Law, the order of the factors does alter the product. Adjusting the message through the different communicative registers will be useful to capture attention and guide it towards our objective, building a channel that connects us with the interlocutor.


Without this link, it will be more difficult to reach the emotional hook that will end up being the key to persuasion. However, we will normally speak of a rather highly educated receiver accustomed to analytical and rational information processing (such as judges). In this case we would adapt the message towards a tone that uses more rational statements, instead of only appealing to emotion.


The next step, once the attention has been captured and the link with a certain emotional involvement created, we must attend to the reaction of our receiver. One tactic will be to contemplate the non-verbal signals to gauge the impact that we are generating, and we must do this continuously, so that time does not pass without the receiver understanding and transcending the message.


On the other hand, anticipating the resistance that the interlocutor may present to us will also be useful to shelter and transform them within our discourse, this is the art of rhetoric, and thus not leave any gap open to possible weaknesses in the persuasion that we are trying to build up.


The persuasive capacity is also closely linked to the construction of the legal truth, since the verdict that indicates which of the truths presented is finally the one that prevails, we seek to confirm the version of the facts raised by us (lawyers).

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