Tips for Combating Plaintiffs’ Deposition Tricks: #3: The Riptide of Aggression

TRICK: Pull you out to the sea of Low Road Cognition with a Riptide of Aggression. TIP: Go With The Flow to maintain High Road Cognition.

Last week, in Ring of Fire, we defined High Road and Low Road Cognition and provided you with tools for recognizing when you’ve been “triggered” into fight-or-flight mode, along with some simple tips that can help keep you in High Road Cognition once you have been triggered. We also revealed the three favorite tactics used by opposing counsel to drag you into Low Road Cognition: aggression, humiliation, and confusion. This week we start with our favorite “low road trigger”: Aggression!


Aggression is like a dangerous riptide that begins to form when a storm is approaching. Riptides (or Rip Currents) are narrow but very strong currents that can quickly pull a person away from the shore. For inexperienced swimmers, they can be deadly. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a super-strong swimmer to stay alive–just an informed one. The funny thing about riptides is, they are scary but easy to escape. Riptides can cause you to think you are in an inescapable current dragging you out to sea. If you’re unfamiliar with riptides, you will react in a way that seems logical: swimming directly against the current. But this only works if you have super-human strength, which is why most people die from panic and exhaustion when they fight against a riptide.

On the other hand, if you simply relax and Go With The Flow, you’ll find that the current will take you to a place where you can return to shore safely and with much less effort. (Note: Because we’re lawyers we have to say this. We are not giving actual safety advice here. Although based in science, we’re using “Riptide” here as an extended metaphor for emotional aggression triggers. Just roll with it. Get your surfing advice from a professional.)

Attorneys love using Aggression to put deponents in a reactionary state. They WANT you to feel scared, powerless, disrespected, and angry. Then they WANT you to fight back. Let’s not give them that satisfaction, eh?


Tactic No. 1: The Power Grab

Goal: To establish dominance and control over everyone in the room–especially you.

What It Is: Use of social cues, verbal directives, and rhetorical techniques to gain “alpha” status. Their turf, their rules, their timeline.

Who’s Most at Risk: If you’re normally a friendly, congenial person OR if you are usually the “alpha” in your world, these tactics will probably trigger you the most because they defy your normal social conventions.


  • Ignoring you: Why wait for the deposition to begin? This Power Grab technique can begin as soon as you enter the room. You may sit quietly or even extend your hand to introduce yourself and be met only with an icy glance, a pursed-lip nod, lack of eye contact, or you might get ignored entirely. This is meant to quickly communicate disdain and your lack of power.
  • Ordering you around: As you get seated, the attorney may start giving you a series of orders to establish that you’re not the one in control, such as where to sit, how to place the mic, where to look, and what items you can have in front of you. Once the deposition begins, you’ll then be given “a few rules” to follow during the deposition, including how to answer questions, how to ask for clarification, and when you’ll take breaks. Kind of like a prison boss: the attorney controls when you sit, stand, speak, eat, and pee.
  • Giving you commands: This tactic is similar to “ordering you around” but more advanced. Think drill sergeant. You might hear commands with phrases like: “look me in the eye…” “show me on that document exactly where…” “look down at that camera and tell the jury…” You’ll probably see this with a dose of Intensity (see Tactic No. 2, below)
    · Interrupting you: This is a classic Power Grab tactic with little purpose except to establish dominance or communicate disrespect (see Tactic No. 3, below).

Tactic No. 2: Intensity & Intimidation

Goal: To make you uncomfortable and fearful, ultimately inducing compliance out of a desire to “make it stop.”

What It Is: The addition of verbal and non-verbal “bling” to their questions. This is where you’ll see the best drama.

Who’s Most at Risk: If you’re usually shy or timid in social settings, or if you’re uncomfortable with conflict, these tactics may be your biggest triggers.


  • Volume: Quite simply, being uncomfortably loud or shouting.

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