Welcome back to our five part series, utilizing the skills of a lawyer for the trials of your life. In Law & Order, we watch Sam Waterson, a talented and seasoned prosecutor, pressure the witness to admit they’re lying and we’re all thrilled by the surrender. In the midst of a real life conflict, we do not want to implement full-scale interrogation; we want to employ these techniques to find out the truth — in a civilized manner. That said, we’re moving on to the Seventh Commandment.
The Seventh Commandment: Thou Shall Know What to Take to the Stand
Preparation and honing your questions are critical skills when cross-examining a witness, but it’s almost equally as important to “bring it!” And by bring it, I mean know what’s in your arsenal of evidence and understand all your hunches. Some attorneys take a suitcase full of papers to the stand and that is just fine — as long as you understand that, as life would have it, things don’t always go according to plan.
While presenting your case and managing your boyfriend’s response, you might be tempted to deviate from your considered approach and respond in the heat of the moment — speaking off the cuff or inserting a piece of evidence that in no way relate to the theory of you case.
For instance, instead of establish incontrovertible facts (“Didn’t you agree to be here at 8:30 tonight for dinner?), you resort to statements that are open to interpretation and challenge (“Once again, you are so unreliable!").
In the heat of the conversation, you’ll be tempted to toss in irrelevant or prejudicial evidence to divert your argument into other hot button issues. Don’t. It will only damage your case. You must respond to his statements and arguments in a cohesive and articulate manner. Follow your head not your heart.
The Eighth Commandment: Why?
Remember why you’re approaching your boyfriend — to push forward the theory of your case. In a courtroom, quite simply, if you’re words or actions aren’t supporting or reinforcing your case, you are spinning your wheels.
My friend Rachel and her husband Rob consistently spin their wheels and seem to argue for the sake of arguing. They argue again and again about his irresponsibility and follow through on domestic matters. NO matter what the issue is — whether it’s Rachel’s purchase of an expensive leather jacket to wear in Seattle, the rainiest city in America, or Rob forgetting their anniversary — the argument always flows back to the irresponsibility theme.
It’s very likely that the reason you and your boy are about to have this sit-down stems partly from his newfound lease on irresponsibility or he’s flippant about issues that concern you. “But the more we fight, the more we don’t get anywhere,” Rachel complained to me over coffee one morning.
“Have you ever thought about why you’re fighting?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
I suggested that rather than throwing mud and the whole kitchen sink at Rob; she needed to decide exactly what she was arguing. This goes back to the Second Commandment: Know Thy Goal and Objective.
The following week, Rachel said that one of their fights actually turned into a discussion. When she felt like she was losing a discussion on changing their 401K plans, she was tempted to bring up why Rob didn’t pick up the dry cleaning bill, but realized that was a different argument. She stayed on track and actually came to an agreement!
Same principle here! If you get off track and bring up every moment when your boyfriend has been irresponsible, down to not picking up his socks, you’ll be headed nowhere in the rest of your case. Stick to the theory — you’re discussing why he’s spending so much more time at work or why guy's night out is suddenly a priority — not that you think he’s lazy or irresponsible in a general sense.
Next, we’ll be finishing the 10 Commandments and providing some closing remarks, as every trial needs a good summation!
• 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.