This Persuasion Tip © will require you to commit to 120 seconds of your time apart from reading my comments on creating your opening. If you make the commitment, I promise you it will open your eyes. If you make the commitment, you will have a true, personal insight into what your jurors feel deep inside themselves when your trial is just beginning. If you make the commitment, you will change how you construct your opening from this day forward.
Ready? I’m serious. You have to be ready.
I am asking you to watch a 90 second movie on YouTube. After those 90 seconds are over, you will need to complete your commitment by spending 30 seconds more thinking. (I tried to give you all the direct link to YouTube, but when the link is embedded in an email, the movie won’t play) So . . . (if you have trouble with any of these steps, ask your 6-year old child or grandchild to help you out!)
- Step 1: go to YouTube.com on your computer
- Step 2: on the YouTube search line at the top of the page, type in Heider-Simmel Illusion
- Step 3: find the selection that looks like the picture above. There is one on there that says “drwilliamashton” on it. That is a good one to watch.
- Step 4: watch the 90 second movie
- Step 5: spend 30 more seconds thinking about what happened in the movie
I’ll wait until you are finished with your 2 minutes . . .
Now that you’ve finished your movie and your 30 second contemplation, let me ask you a few things:
- Did you make up a story about the movie?
- While you were watching, did you feel like you were striving to create a story?
- When you made up your story, what characteristics did you attribute to the characters?
- What types of motivations emerged from the characters in your story?
This funky movie was created in 1944 for an experiment by Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel. It was a study in “apparent behavior,” or how people attribute and interpret motivations and feelings and actions when the stimulus is ambiguous. In their original study of 120 people, ONLY ONE PERSON described that movie in purely geometrical terms (i.e., “two triangles and a circle moved around near a rectangle . . .”). Everyone else (just like you!) created a story with a plot, characters, motivations, and feelings.
One problem that I see for attorneys became apparent from these research subjects: all 119 stories were different. Some described a fight over a girl. Some saw a home invasion to steal a big prize involving a distraction. Some saw an extra-marital affair being discovered. Some saw child abuse and a foster child wanting to be in a home-any home-because they didn’t have one of their own. One saw a woman trying to sneak past a bouncer into an exclusive nightclub. They attributed personality characteristics to the shapes, like aggressive, sneaky, and cocky. They created conversations between the shapes that involved swearing and yelling and whispering. There were some common themes and some very uncommon ones (like the movie involved birds).
Why did I ask you to make this 120 second commitment and why do I think it might change your life?
- Jurors, at the start of trial, are in an ambiguous situation. Consequently, they are striving to make sense out of what they are taking in. They feel the same way you felt during the movie. They HAVE TO make sense out of all this. To make sense out of it, they struggle to create their own story, usually based on some personal experience they had.
- Since you have just felt some of the tension that your jurors feel, your path to success needs to include
- Putting them at ease;
- Giving them the “right” story—YOURS!
I can’t emphasize #2 enough. By experiencing the movie yourselves and by looking at the research results (119 out of 120 made up a story) you now know that jurors will take your facts and create a story. It is not a matter of “if.” To win, you have to tell them the story you want them to adopt, because, left to their own devices, their stories will be so fantastic, so varied, and SO NOT your story that the outcome of your trial is at risk. You ease their pain when you can give them your story.
How will this change your life? In 90 seconds you felt what it feels like to be a juror. Do not forget that lesson. That feeling needs to drive you at your desk when you are trying to write your next opening.
Remember: whoever tells the best story wins.
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