Manage your anger
I previously posted some thoughts about the harmful impression created on the jury by lawyers bickering and fighting with each other in an out of control court room. While listening to public radio in my car http://www.goodradio.org/ I heard a broadcast about being a peaceful parent in raising children. The goal that was discussed was not to harm a child in their mind, heart or body. To raise a child without doing physical harm by any violence towards the child, without doing damage to the mind of the child and without doing damage to the heart of the child by words of put down. During the broadcast a physician was interviewed who used the example from Star Trek. On that TVprogramwhen an enemy ship approached. Captain Kirk would say "raise the shields and open a channel" which meant the protective shield was activated while a communication channel was used to contact the other ship. The speaker recommended that we do the same as soon as we sense we are getting angry. He recommended then finding that place of peace within ourselves as we rationally analyze the the situation.
I liked the phrase "raise the shields and open a channel" as a mantra to say to ourselves in the situation where the judge or opposing counsel makes us want to lose control in anger. The American Psychological Association has suggestions as well on this issue http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html They recommend deep breathing and relaxing imagery to help calm angry feelings. They suggest the deep breathing should be from the gut and not the shallow kind. They suggest saying to yourself "relax, take it easy" while breathing deeply. They suggest visualizing a relaxing past experience from memory or imagination.
Anthony Robbins book Awaken the Giant Within is one of the best "encyclopedia’s" for human motivation and conduct I’ve read. Since he applies Neurolinquistic Programing techniques it is a wonderful book because it applies those ideas in a very practical way. He suggests chaning the focus of your thinking by asking yourself "What do I like about this person?" Even if the answer is "absolutely nothing" it is a step in changing focus. Ask yourself "What could I respect about this person if I wanted to?" That helps focus a change in our viewpoint of what is happening. Change the words you say to yourself as well. Eliminate "never" and "always" from your internal dialog as in "this judge always rules against me." Change the words you use to describe to yourself what is happening as in "Oh, this is awful. I will never forget this" etc. Instead, use different words to yourself "This is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world and I will move on anyway." Change the words you use in response from demands "I demand, I must have" to more neutral words.
Use role reversal. What is this person afraid of? What would make them act this way? How can I help them get around these problems? It is helpful in role reversal to make physical moves. Step back away from the person or if a judge move from your original position to a new one a step or two away. Maintaining a calm voice and calm appearance contributes to actual calmness. We tend to become what we act like.
When the exchange seizes being a power struggle for control and instead becomes a calm appraisal of why the issue is important without personal attack, there is a good chance for success. In the case of a judge, my experience has been that when I demonstrate the fact I am not seeking tocontrol the court room andIexhibit respect for the judge, he or she relaxes and is far more reasonable.
These are just a few of the many examples of how to maintain calmness in your trial practice. Even anger should be applied calmly. Out of control people are people no one respects.