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Simple Jury Persuasion: Being “right” versus being persuasive

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
posted by Rita Handrich

you_are_wrong-300x211If only they would listen. It is so frustrating when you know you are right but no one is agreeing with you. When we wrote about myside bias last week, the article stimulating today’s post had not yet been published.

But the author experienced exactly what our client attorneys do when listening to mock jurors react to evidence presentations. Except this author wasn’t with a group of mock jurors, some of whom may not be well-educated, rational and analytical thinkers. No. The author was instead with a group of fellow scientific researchers. All of whom would arguably be rational and analytic thinkers. And they were arguing about ergonomics and whether sitting is killing us.

Specifically, they were arguing about the information presented in the infographic we blogged about two years ago. Okay, so maybe these scientists don’t keep up as well as they might and are still arguing about two-year-old infographics. That is not the point. This is the point.

And then I realized something: it didn’t matter whether I was right; nobody was listening to me anymore.

It goes to show you. It isn’t just that group of mock jurors who are too thick-headed to understand you are right. It isn’t just the judge, the arbitrator, the actual jurors, or the mediator who just don’t understand. It is instead a confusion about the difference between being “right” and being persuasive. And while you may be (inarguably) right, you may not be persuasive.

It’s a really hard thing to define and Chris Holdgraf (the author of the brief post) doesn’t really define the difference between being right and being persuasive. We’ve said before here that there really is no such thing as persuasion.

Instead there are well–crafted narratives that resonate with the listener’s values and beliefs and show them how your client is, in many ways, “like them”.

Through pretrial research (and many years of study and experience), we identify elements of the trial story that gave the potential to trigger resistance.

In other words, we want to see what elements need to be reframed to avoid that resistance so that new listeners can actually hear the story itself, rather than having alarms go off in their brains that cause them to stop listening.

So, it doesn’t really matter if you are talking to mock jurors, actual jurors, judges, arbiters, mediators, colleagues, or a group of research scientists. The goal is to keep them listening–which is, we think, the closest you can come to persuading. Keep them listening. Tell a story that resonates with their values. Help them see that their own values would be reflected in a verdict in favor of your client.

Holdgraf, C. 2013 On being ‘right’ in science. The Student Blog at PLoS Blogs.

Stanovich, KE, West, RF, & Toplak, ME (2013). Myside bias, rational thinking and intelligence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22 DOI: 10.1177/0963721413480174


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