If there's an advocacy topic you want to see discussed, or about which you wish to contribute, contact one of the blog administrators - see the list on the right side of this page. Lonely thinking changes nothing, sharing your thoughts may start a trend.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Personality and Persuasion - Who you are always matters

 Aristotle used ethos, logos, and pathos, when describing an advocate in action. The study of these three subjects form the bedrock of rhetoric and is well worth considering as you   yourself into the advocate you want to be.  They are also helpful when thinking about how to teach others the skill and art of advocacy. But what do they really mean and how can we translate them into a 21st century understanding?

While there are a lot of things we could consider when talking about an advocate’s ethical, logical, and emotional power, I want to focus today on whether or not we can identify a character trait impacting our believability and credibility. Sometimes the easiest way to address a complex subject is to grasp a piece of it and use it to unravel the rest of it. This blog post is the beginning of an attempt to unravel how our sense of self, our personal identity, influences our success and failure trial.

I have been doing some research lately into persuasion and an advocate’s personality, particularly certain individual character traits. Have you ever stop to think about how your own character impacts the way you present a case?  You can identify a person who has the “it factor.” You know them when you see them in the courtroom. They pull attention simply by standing there. They create, through some sort of magical construct, jury focus and an emotional response to what they say. They are believable. 

To what extent does our own internal sense of self play a role in our persuasive power? If we could understand the connection between our character and persuasive power we should be able to identify and develop those parts of ourselves that make us more persuasive, while also minimizing those character traits that perhaps make us less believable than we want to be.  If we go outside the law it is relatively easy to find some resources that assist us in getting to know ourselves better.

How many of you have taken a personality test?  If you reach the point that you are a member of the legal profession, them at some point in either high school, college, or hopefully law school, you took a personality test to help you understand what careers you might be suited for. These personality tests are conducted by several different agencies but they share some common characteristics. The characteristics I want to talk about today are introversion and extroversion.

 Most of us would agree that it is relatively easy to identify whether a person is generally introverted or extroverted. We think of the introvert as being more quiet, less inclined to draw attention to themselves, more self directed, more inward in nature. The extrovert, on the other hand, is the life of the party. They are often loud, over the top, pulling attention to themselves merely by existing. A psychologist would tell you that an introvert gets their energy from the time they spend alone, while and extrovert is energized by the time they spend with others.

There are certain assumptions we make about introverted and extroverted people, to include their powers of persuasion. Sometimes those assumptions are not as correct as you might think. For example, did you know that your degree of introversion or extroversion has a direct impact on your language choices?

There’s a very interesting article on the British Psychological Society’s website about introversion and extroversion and its impact on word choice and language. Introverts as a general rule tend to use more concrete words when talking. They precisely describe the subject in a way that extroverts do not. Extroverts as a general rule have a tendency to use words that are more abstract and vague when communicating. This has an interesting impact on their believability.

 If you get a group of introverts together and show them a series of photographs that depict situations that could be interpreted in multiple ways, much like you might find in controverted issues of fact the trial, it turns out that the introverts described those photographs using very concrete and precise terms. They focus on the actual presentation in the photo and do not abstractly interpret an emotional meaning.

Extroverts, on the other hand, view the photographs and then attach an emotional meaning to them. An extrovert looking at a picture of two folks would be much more likely to say they’re in love, while an introvert would describe how they were standing, where they were standing, the physical location of the different parts of their bodies, and the appearance of their faces. Research has shown that more precise language choices are generally considered more believable.
While an introvert is more likely to focus on precise language, they are less likely to enjoy the advocacy experience. An extrovert enjoys talking to the jury, interacting with the witnesses, and the give-and-take of the communication in the courtroom. The comfort of the extrovert in that situation creates a sense of ease and competency that is apparent to those watching - sometimes that can be mistaken for the “it” factor. An introvert would find these same activities draining. 

This goes even further from a trial advocacy perspective. Introverts are much more likely to deal with one issue sequentially, talking it all the way through before moving to another topic. An extrovert is much more likely to discuss multiple topics, simultaneously, bouncing back and forth between them as the situation dictates. In a nutshell introverts and extroverts talk at a different level of abstraction, and they also receive information at a different level. As you think about the different skills conducted during a trial you can see how introverts and extroverts might, by nature, be more inclined initially to enjoy and perform better in certain situations.

As we teach students of advocacy an understanding of their degree of introversion or extroversion can be very helpful . If we can meld the best of the extroverted qualities with the best of the introverted qualities we can empower advocates to be more persuasive. 

Take care,


No comments:

Post a Comment