In case you're just joining us in techniques to handle the trials of your life, we are embarking on the "10 Commandments" of cross-examining your boyfriend — for those of you suspecting that those late night work hours involve more than ... ahem, working. We're halfway so it's not too late to catch up!
The Fifth Commandment: Know Thy Personality and Adapt It To Your Questioning
Cross-examinations can be frustrating-an adversary's answers may not be to your liking (just as your partner's may not either), and the tendency to argue will always exist. In terms of maintaining your credibility with a jury, arguing is a disaster. I've always said you don't have to be cross to deliver an effective cross-examination.
I learned my lesson as a young prosecutor when I lost my temper at a witness I knew was lying to me. Reaching for the Perry Mason "gotcha" moment where he would break down and confess, I got hot under the collar and lost my cool-blowing up at him. All I did was make myself look like an underfed pit-bull. I did nothing but lose credibility. Now I know how to walk softly and carry a big stick.
Example: "Thought you were at the office" is much better than, "Where the hell were you?" (That's also a non-leading question to avoid!) The key: know the difference between tough and angry. In most cases, showing frustration and anger does nothing but force the witness into a stance of righteous indignation. I certainly get more defensive and reticent when I'm threatened. Bottom line for this Commandment: Hold your fire until there's no longer any reasonable doubt.
The Sixth Commandment: Thou Shall Know When to Quit
If you're preparation and evidence is thorough and complete, you should not be hearing too many surprises during cross examination-but all lawyers have stories when they realize, half way through cross that the battle is over and there's little more to extract from that witness. Often, it's an intuitive response and you know you're about to claim victory or, on the flip side, suffer defeat. As lawyers, we love to argue-after all, it's our job-and that makes it very difficult to step away from the podium. However, just as cross-examination is a skill, so to is the art and timing of retreat.
Cross-examination can be addictive-there's always one more point to refute, one more question to ask. Be careful not to ask one too many questions. During cross, you should only ask enough questions to establish the points you want to make.
If you must roll the dice and ask questions you aren't sure of, at least be sure you can handle the response. Don't open Pandora's Box unless you're willing to look inside. Sometimes working late is just working late. Keep things civil and monitor your emotional temperature; hot heads don't win lawsuits.
I hope at this point, you have some guidance on how to navigate this difficult conversation or some other trial of your life. Additionally, I hope these tips allow for self-examination and prepare you to better cross. Tomorrow we'll continue to explore two more Commandments. These tips should serve as guideposts to your own personal search and assist with avoiding misunderstandings that could otherwise derail a potentially good relationship.
• The 10 Commandments of Cross Examination
• Signs Your Boyfriend is Cheating on You
• How to tell if he's cheating
• Winning Every Time: How to Use the Skills of a Lawyer in the Trials of Your Life, by Lis Wiehl (Random House)
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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985.In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987.
Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It . ( Watch the Video ) and Winning Every Time: How to Use the Skills of a Lawyer in the Trials of Your Life
To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.