Trial lessons from tiger woods
The Wall Street Journal April 8th featured an article by Matthew Futterman "The importance of being angry" about Tiger Woods. The article described his displays of anger in previous tournament play such as tossing a club and other displays of anger. It quotes Tiger as saying he is turning over a new leaf in his first tournament since his return to golf and wonders if a lack of anger will hurt his playing edge. The writer observes that popular belief is that relieving anger by "venting" is better then holding it inside of you. But, it notes that John Forsyth, a professor of psychology at Albany says: "In almost every case expressing anger tends to be bad." He says that "Typically, the idea is based on the pressure cooker, that we need to blow off steam. But, as it turns out, people are not tea kettles." The article notes:
"When a person acts on an angry impulse, scientists say, his body produces norephinephrine a hormone that increases blood pressure, heart rate and the flow of blood to the large muscles in the arms and legs." While it improves reflexes and strength, the downside is that as more blood flows to the muscles, less flows to the brain. The reduced blood flow inhibits one’s ability to think clearly, to process information, to make reasonable decisions and accomplish tasks that require fine motor skill. Psychologist Matthew McKay, who has written books on anger management is quoted as saying "Your judgment goes out the window. Even the ability to consider future consequences of your behavior becomes very problematic." Studies confirm this fact. Forsyth says the process of controlling anger is a lot like watching a seagull float in the water. The waves go up and down, and somehow the seagull manages to stay above it all.
The article reminded me of Gerry Spence’s book How to Argue and Win Every time with the wonderful concept that when we allow anger to take over, we "give up our power." What a great truth. When anger is in control we are out of control. Often, our chief challenge during a trial is to not allow anger to dominate us. Gerry’s idea of "watchful waiting" is something all trial lawyers should try to master. He basis it on the matador who must calmly watch and wait for the charging bull. He suggests that is the same approach we should use at trial in the face of some outburst by the judge or our opponent. To remain still, quiet and calm so that our response is timed as well as rational.
Lao Tzu has said "he who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still."
One thought on “Trial lessons from tiger woods”
It is so difficult sometimes in this profession to keep your anger in check. This is true throughout the life of the case from depositions through trial. Giving yourself over to anger is ceding control to your opponent. Thanks for this great reminder!