In the sixth episode of his "Powerful Witness Preparation" podcast series, Basic Principles for Being a Witness, litigation attorney Dan Small shares the two basic principles for being a witness and how to carry them out effectively.
Mr. Small explains that presenting these principles as concepts is easy but to truly know them and apply them requires a high level of understanding and discipline that can only come through preparation.
1. “Listen, Listen, Listen.” - When witnesses find out they are going to take the stand, the first thing they worry about is talking: what will I say, how will I say it, and so on. However, a witness should really focus on learning to listen with a narrow intensity.
As a witness, every word is taken down, given great significance and intensely scrutinized. By listening carefully, a witness can control the pace, tone, and complexity of the questions.
2. "Don't Try Too Hard." - Most witnesses run into problems not because they are trying to lie, but because they are trying too hard to tell the truth. Being a witness takes a surprising amount of preparation, concentration and internal discipline.
The goal is to be careful and precise: to listen for simple questions, give simple answers and then stop. This means witnesses should be extremely careful when choosing their words, and it’s ok if they are limited.
Mr. Small reminds witnesses that this is not a conversation. The discipline to adopt these two principles is essential to a witness's success in the long run and increases the chances of getting through the process with the least damage and the highest likelihood of finality.
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