Follow me on Twitter

Blog archive

We Participate In:

ABA Journal Blawg 100!

Subscribe to The Jury Room via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Simple Jury Persuasion: How to be more likable

Friday, January 15, 2010
posted by Douglas Keene

Likability. It’s a tough one. Especially in court where you might be a little nervous and there are so many uncertainties.There are some who say “just be yourself” and we would say “well, if your ‘true self’ is likeable, that’s fine” but there are ways the research tells us you can increase your likability. It wouldn’t hurt to try them out. If you’re worried about whether they will seem genuine, test them in a focus group and see what happens. [Note:  We have observed people evidently testing these strategies out in bars, but we don’t recommend this.  Too many complicating variables… unless your jurisdiction allows you to play music and serve drinks to jurors.  If your jurisdiction allows this, please contact us immediately.]

Similarity, praise and compliance

The first finding has to do with similarity and praise. Researchers have found that two factors stand out as particularly compelling in terms of increasing likability: similarity and praise. Robert Cialdini is one of the gurus of persuasion and communication strategies. A real rock star in the marketing world.  He reports that feeling similar to others quite literally draws people together. We stand closer when we learn we have similar political views. And we enjoy sincere praise. We all know how that makes us feel closer to the person praising us (as long as we believe they can be trusted).  What Cialdini shows us is that praise generates liking and willing compliance with the wishes of the person praising us.

So find similarities between yourself and the members of the venire and praise them for honesty and willingness to respond to your queries.

Smile and the world smiles with you

Ever caught yourself smiling at a coworker or neighbor just because they smiled at you first? Cialdini calls this the principle of reciprocity. We tend to treat others as they treat us.

If you want the jury to receive you warmly, treat them warmly first. Smile.

Get juror’s commitment publicly

While liking is a powerful force, you also want to get jurors to be committed to what you want them to do. Cialdini says there is powerful evidence to show that when we publicly commit to a course of action through the spoken word or in writing, we tend to follow through. We aren’t suggesting that you ask for commitments on verdict issues, which is obviously improper in most jurisdictions.

Attorneys often ask jurors to commit to deliberating fairly and without bias. But what does that really mean? Instead, focus on something they have already done as a ‘first step’ toward a commitment to fairness.   Build a bridge between their commitment to what is acceptable, such as fairness or a commitment to the evidence, and the verdict that you attach to it

“During jury selection we discussed the idea of fairness.  Of what justice means.  Of how the American jury system is the single greatest protection we have as citizens, because it is citizens, neighbors, voters making the decisions.  Not politicians or bureaucrats.  It is our community.  So it leaves us with the challenge of making our community represent fairness in real life, and doing the right thing not just for the people in this court, but for our county, for our state…”

If they have completed a juror questionnaire, refer to their effort made in an attempt to show where the areas where they might have trouble being fair. Praise them for being thorough in their completion of the questionnaire. Frame completion of that task as step one. Participation in voir dire is step two. Listening intently and maintaining an open mind throughout the courtroom presentations is step three. And step four is deliberating fully and with integrity to allow justice to be done.

Similarity, praise, smiles and a call to action based on past behavior. And voila! You are not only more likable, you are more likely to have actively engaged jurors who want to do the right thing.

%d bloggers like this: