In this 10-part series, Tips for Combatting Plaintiffs’ Deposition Tricks, we expose some common tricks that plaintiffs’ attorneys frequently use to gain the upper hand during a personal-injury deposition. If you find yourself in the deponent’s chair, here aresome tips for recognizing and combatting these tricks so you can stay calm, maintain control, and better protect yourself and your company from costly, unnecessary exposure.
TRICK: PULL you down into the Undercurrent of Humiliation to induce Low Road Cognition. TIP: Stay Afloat to maintain High Road Cognition.
In the last article in our 10-part series, we addressed Aggression as one technique plaintiffs’ attorneys use to move you from High Road Cognition to Low Road Cognition. (Click here for a quick refresher on High Road v. Low Road Cognition). This week we turn to Aggression’s sinister cousin, Humiliation, and how to avoid getting caught in its dangerous Undercurrent.
In a body of water, an undercurrent is a strong current moving below, and in a different direction, than the water on the surface. In a human, an undercurrent is a strong but hardly noticeable feeling–perhaps subconscious–that has the power to influence a person’s thoughts and behavior.
Either way, undercurrents are powerful and can take you somewhere you never intended to go. To avoid getting overpowered and knocked off your feet, the most important thing is to be ready for it. We’re here to help you keep your head above water.
The Power of Humiliation
Ahhh humiliation. The emotion we spend our lives trying to prevent…or forget. Memories of experiences that left you feeling embarrassed and ashamed can sometimes be suppressed, but they never really go away. But now here you are in a deposition, like a fish in a barrel, forced to subject yourself to a one-way interrogation by a merciless fisherman.
According to our friend Wikipedia, “humiliation” is an attack on a person’s pride, leading to a state of being humbled, lowly, or reduced to submission. In fact, we tend to experience humiliation any time we perceive a decrease in our social status. This is the key. Whether it happens on purpose or by accident, humiliation simply can’t happen unless someone else is involved.
As they say, it takes two to tango.
And, of course, after a humiliating experience occurs, no matter how much time passes, the humiliating memory becomes a powerful undercurrent in your life, shaping your fears, influencing your preferences, and informing your decisions…basically forever. Heavy, huh.
The good news is: you’re not alone. Pretty much everyone has an Undercurrent of Humiliation flowing below the surface all the time. The bad news is: the plaintiff’s attorney knows it.
And he just might know yours.
As with Aggression, there are probably as many Humiliation tactics as there are humans on the planet. And when it comes to the Undercurrent of Humiliation, you can either be pulled or pushed into its flow.
Humiliation usually occurs through various forms of intimidation, mistreatment, and embarrassment. To keep things simple, we’ve organized them into two main categories: (1) PULL Tactics, and (2) PUSH Tactics. Both are calculated to get you down in the Undercurrent, and both are likely to appear during your deposition.
Turns out, we had lots to say on this topic, so we broke the subject of Humiliation into Part 1 & Part 2. This week in Part 1, we’ll discuss PULL Tactics and how to Stay Afloat to maintain your High Road Cognition.
An attorney may try to PULL you down into the Undercurrent of Humiliation by using forms of intimidation and mistreatment. Think of these as the “flip side” of the Aggression tactics we discussed last time. Except now, instead of simply trying to make you angry, frustrated, or annoyed, PULL tactics have the added goal of making you feel socially inferior in some way.
The thing about social inferiority is that YOU must consent to feeling inferior. The more insecure you are about an area of your life, the more vulnerable you are to being pulled down by these tactics.
For example, if you feel highly insecure about your level of income, you might start feeling pulled down simply because the attorney is wearing a nice watch or is wearing a fancy suit. Or if you are insecure about your physical appearance, you could feel the “pull” if the attorney fails to make eye contact with you or speaks to you disrespectfully. Many of the Power
Grab techniques discussed last week are designed to elevate the social status of the plaintiff’s attorney over your own.
PULL Tactics commonly take the form of invasive questions or passive-aggressive insults about something in your background-
-and everything is fair game:
- Education Family/parenting Intelligence
- Professional skills/competence Country of origin
- Health Age
- Physical/mental limitations Medical/psychological conditions
- Other personal traits, such as an accent or speech impediment
- Moreover, you must expect that the opposing attorney will know of and question you about the following: Any criminal history (no matter how old or irrelevant)
- Any prior accidents
- Any prior lawsuits (of any type)
Be aware that, throughout the deposition, the plaintiff’s attorney will watch you carefully and will purposely drill down on topics that make you defensive or uncomfortable. Of course, your attorney will be lodging objections and should always take steps to protect you from blatant abuse. However, most courts give wide latitude to the scope of questions that can be asked during a deposition, so it’s best to be prepared for any topic.
Fortunately, since you are the expert on you, most PULL tactics can be anticipated and prepared for in advance. Here’s how to Stay Afloat.
The best way to avoid the Undercurrent is to simply stay above it. As you work with your attorney to chart your Escape Route for restoring High Road Cognition, here are a list of DOs and DON’Ts for avoiding humiliation from PULL Tactics.
- DO Review Your Life. Take a careful look at yourself, including your professional and personal background. Spend some time carefully considering the areas of your life where you are insecure or ashamed of something in your past, and discuss these things with your attorney. Identify your individual vulnerabilities and assume you’ll get questioned about everything. If not, then great! If so, you’ll be ready. Although this might not be the most comfortable exercise, it’s the most effective way to prepare. Once you do this…
- DO Make Peace with Your Past. Just own it. Forgive yourself. Let go of your emotional baggage related to a past action, trait, insecurity, decision, or dirty laundry. Okay, yes, it’s easier said than done. Just remember that the more baggage you carry, the more easily you’ll be pulled down by all that extra weight. And to help release some of that baggage…
- DO Use Your Life Raft. Remember the Life Raft of spiritual balance (i.e., connection with your inner self) we talked about in Week 1. Now’s the time to blow that baby up. By connecting with your inner self on a regular basis, you not only free yourself from things that weigh you down, you are less likely to get triggered when you do feel the pull from a sensitive topic. And whatever you do…
- DON’T Make Excuses. When going through your individual list of past actions or other vulnerable topics, don’t waste your time preparing excuses or explanatory stories justifying your conduct. Yes, it’s super tempting but totally counter- productive. Here’s why. First, you simply won’t get to tell your story, no matter how compelling or exculpatory it is. Any attempt to do that will get shut down by the plaintiff’s attorney and will make you look distrustful and unappealing to the jury. Second, as you prepare your explanations, you’ll actually start feeling defensive, angry, and victimized before the deposition even begins–making you more likely to get triggered into Low Road Cognition. And, of course…
- DON’T Get Mad Either. Yes, it’s unfair that you have to go subject yourself to potential humiliation in a deposition. But getting mad about it simply won’t do anything besides get you all worked up. Now you’re emotionally charged and basically asking to get triggered. Just try to relax and know it will all be over soon. And on that note…
- DO Trust Your Attorney. Even if you get questioned on some topics that make you seriously uncomfortable, if they’re not factually related to the case, there’s a good chance that no one will ever hear your answers. Although the plaintiff’s attorney might have freedom to go “fishing” in a wide variety of topics, your attorney will work hard to ensure that any irrelevant information never sees the light of day.
Undercurrents are often owing below the surface, but they don’t have to be dangerous. By identifying plainti’s PULL Tactics
and planning your Escape Route accordingly, you’ll be better prepared to Stay Aoat safely above Undercurrent of
Humiliation. Next week in Part 2, we’ll discuss the other side of Humiliation, PUSH Tactics, and how to overcome them. Stay
For more information about Murphy Legal or preparing for depositions, please reach out through our website or call us
at (979) 690-0800