In this 10-part series, 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 are some 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: Make the deposition feel like a Category 5 Hurricane. TIP: Life balance will keep you in the “eye of the storm.”
To begin this series, let’s consider the “atmospheric conditions” of a typical deposition in which a truck driver or corporate representative is being cross-examined by a plaintiff’s attorney.
We start, of course, with the hot air of a hostile plaintiff attorney’s examination, which then mixes with their frigid reception to any unexpected or inconvenient answers you might provide. Add in the winds of self-doubt caused by their twisted words and manipulation, and the rising pressure makes the room start spinning. The glaring light from the videographer’s camera seems more like lightning, blinding you with fear and self-consciousness. The rat-tat-tat of the court reporter’s relentless keystrokes might as well be golf-ball-sized hail. Top it o” with the rolling thunder of your pounding heartbeat, and it’s no wonder that most people would prefer to hide underneath the table.
How do you handle a storm like this?
Answer: You purposefully position yourself in the “eye of the storm” where the weather is calm and the sun is shining.
And the good news is, you can find the “eye” without reading any books, memorizing any fancy legal jargon, or being an expert in any field.
You might be surprised to know that much of the stress and anxiety that arises during a deposition can be prevented by creating balance in your own life–physically, spiritually, emotionally, and professionally. Like all humans, when you’re out of balance, you’re simply unable to bring all your available power, energy, and rational decision-making skills to the table.
Of course, establishing a daily routine that addresses these four key areas is most effective. However, if you don’t already have a daily routine, here are some quick tips for hacking your life balance on the day of your deposition.
1. Physical Balance: Get a good night’s sleep the night before your deposition. The morning of your deposition get up a little earlier than normal and do some light exercise. Don’t go crazy–especially if you’re not used to working out regularly. Just do something to work up a sweat. Go for a jog or a brisk walk. Do some jumping jacks and pushups in your hotel room. Whatever, just sweat. Exercise will not only get your blood circulating, which will help keep your head clear, it will also help reduce stress and calm your nerves throughout the day ahead.
Bonus Tip: Turbocharge with a Cold Shower. When you take a shower after your workout, turn the faucet on cold for the final minute of your shower. This provides a physical and mental “reset” which boosts your body and brain’s ability to stay calm and focused.
Key Takeaway: Your body is your RAINCOAT. When you’re physically balanced, the storm just rolls o” your back.
2. Spiritual Balance: After your shower, spend 10-15 minutes just being quiet. Of course, if you already have a daily prayer time, that’s great–keep doing that! But remember, when you’re praying, you’re the one doing the “talking” (whether out loud or inside your head). And that’s wonderful! Just don’t forget the “listening” part, too. Some people call it meditation, and there are a thousand different methods. The key is to quite your mind and create a peaceful internal space that you can return to throughout the deposition whenever you feel yourself getting emotionally triggered by the plainti”‘s attorney. If meditation isn’t really your jam, try it’s twin brother “mindfulness” for 10-15 minutes. It’s simple. Start by closing your eyes and taking a 4-5 deep breaths. Then just focus on your 5 senses. Rotate through each of your senses (yes, even your sense of “sight” with your eyes closed) and identify all the sensations you can detect, both prominent and subtle. Then, try and see how many of your senses you can hold in your awareness at the same time. By putting your intense focus on your senses, you give your thinking mind a much-needed break from worrying about your upcoming deposition.
Bonus Tip: Use Mindfulness for Micro-Breaks. Mindfulness can be used during your deposition to create space, slow the pace, and give your brain a quick rest. When you feel yourself getting tense, return to your 5 senses. Notice the feel of the table in front of you, the sound of passing cars outside, or some ambient smell in the room. These micro- breaks can help create additional focus and energy.
Key Takeaway: Your connection with your inner self is your LIFE RAFT. When you’re spiritually balanced, you always have something to hold on to when the waves get rough.
3. Emotional Balance: Next, spend a few minutes connecting with your family before you leave for the day. This typically includes your spouse and children, but could also include parents, siblings, or even close friends. Anyone with whom you have a close personal bond. If you can’t talk to them in person, phone calls and text messages are great, too. It doesn’t need to take long. Tell them you love them, that they’re special, or that they’re awesome in some specific way. Tell them something you appreciate about them, thank them for something they recently did for you, or recount a special moment or event you recently shared. Human connection is powerful, energizing, and uplifting, and is the true “secret sauce” for life balance that many people neglect.
Don’t skip this step!
Bonus Tip: Keep Things in Perspective. Connecting with family acts like an anchor and help us keep things in perspective. Remember, the case you are giving testimony for is important, but whatever the case may be, it pales in comparison to your real job as a mom, dad, wife, or husband. Frankly, there are millions of people all over the planet that know nothing about the case you are involved in. Fostering emotional connection with those you love most will help remind you that the storm is only temporary.
Key Takeaway: Your emotional connections are your ANCHOR. When you’re in balance with your family, you foster relationships that will still be strong long after the storm has passed.
4. Professional Balance: Finally, take a few minutes to discover (or re-discover) your professional “why.” Why do you do the job you do? Why does it matter? Why is what you do (or your company does) important? Why is it worth fighting for? The answers to these questions will help provide guidance and direction when you’re unsure or you start second-guessing yourself during your deposition.]
Bonus Tip: Declare Your Why. Once you have answered your “why” questions, take a moment to share those answers with at least one other person before you enter the room to start your deposition. You can declare to anyone–your spouse, your boss, or simply your attorney. By declaring your deepest belief about your professional purpose, you not only define but solidify your greater truth.
Key Takeaway: Your professional “why” is your COMPASS. When you’re professionally balanced, you can successfully navigate through whatever storm awaits.
So remember, when you’re facing the storm of your pending deposition, your raincoat, your life raft, your anchor, and your compass will safely guide you to—and keep you inside—the “eye of the storm.”
At Murphy Legal we not only believe in life balance, we practice it daily. If you’d like more information about the daily routine WE use to position ourselves in the eye of the storm, email us at [email protected] and simply type “life balance” in the subject line.