Your confidence is tested in numerous ways when you work with attorneys. You might be testifying as an expert witness, explaining a case to an attorney, or giving a talk to attorney or paralegals.
Trial attorneys are great at reading body language and assessing witnesses. They focus on credibility—the credibility of the defendant and the credibility of the expert witness. They also evaluate confidence levels of witnesses or speakers.
Many trial attorneys are particularly good at thinking on their feet, and make snap decisions just based on the LNC's degree of confidence, the eye contact, the way that information is delivered, and the pace. All that goes into establishing credibility.
Your body language reveals more about your mindset than you may realize. Legal nurse consultants need to pay special attention to not displaying nervous tics and distracting habits, like unthinkingly playing with their hair or clicking a ballpoint pen on and off.
Body Language Signals Communicate Uneasiness
Experience alone doesn’t solve this problem. As an experienced expert witness, I was testifying at a deposition about a case with which I was uncomfortable. I was also uneasy with the lawyer who was questioning me.
I laced my fingers together and put them in front of my mouth. I didn't realize what I was doing until he told me, "I'm having trouble understanding you. Please put your hands down." I think my body was subconsciously trying to hide from him in plain sight, even though that was not an effective way of communicating.
Attorneys can sniff out in a heartbeat somebody who is not authentic or is bluffing and making up information in order to fill a knowledge gap, for example.
You give subtle signs of your confidence and credibility by the way you walk, move your arms and make eye contact (or not). Attorneys listen to the sound of your voice.
That means that if you’re facing an opposing attorney who knows you’re feeling scared and are protecting yourself, the attorneys will pounce on you. Make sure that you're exhibiting confidence, whether or not you feel it.
You may remember the song in the play/movie, “The King and I” about whistling a happy tune whenever you are afraid. That can convince you that you are not afraid.
The brain follows the body. Your breathing changes, your heartbeat slows. You stop wafting fear chemicals. The song ends, “You can be as brave as you make believe you are.”
This isn’t faking it. This is convincing yourself. This is talking to yourself as you would to a small, frightened child. It teaches you to center inside yourself. You’ll do well then, whether you’re in an auditorium or a courtroom because you are confident within yourself. People sense that. The messages that you give yourself translate into how you interact with others.
When you exude confidence, the audience will be drawn to you and the aggressive lawyer will back off.
As a Nurse You’re a Good Communicator
Nurses need to be good communicators. Patients must trust us. We need non-intrusive ways to get the information from them. We are obligated to communicate well with physicians and colleagues. That gives us a step above people who have a more isolated or more technical training, for example, people who relate mostly to their computers.
We get involved as legal nurse consultants in doing presentations using our communication skills to a room full of attorneys. In a conference room, at a luncheon meeting, at an attorney conference, a nurse may be one of a group of speakers, on a panel, presenting information or teaching and communicating with attorneys one on one.
One of the best ways to build up your self-confidence is to remind yourself of the many ways in which you communicate effectively and powerfully. Don’t just think about it. Make a list.
If necessary, make a note every time you achieve a significant success in communicating. Realize that you can translate your skills to the auditorium or courtroom. The key ingredient is you.