When you’re in court, maintaining a professional demeanor is sometimes easier said than done. When emotions run high, or opponents act stupid, or witnesses don’t say what they’re supposed to say, do you know what your body language is saying?
Often, a person’s expression, or body language can say a lot more than they want, and as recent headlines suggest, in court, the wrong body-language reaction can even earn a lawyer a scolding.
Below are five of the worst body language mistakes a lawyer can make in court.
1. Don’t Roll Your Eyes
In the big, federal Manafort case, the attorneys were scolded for rolling their eyes. Judge T.S. Ellis called the eye-rolling “inappropriate” and explained that it communicates to people that the lawyers are thinking “Why do we have to deal with this idiot judge?”
2. The Natural Scowl
If you’ve ever had to tell someone, “Sorry, I just have one of those faces,” then you may want to consider working on your resting facial expression. If you always look upset, or are always smirking, you could be sending the wrong message.
3. Overly Suggestive Hand Gestures
If you wildly gesticulate, you may want to consider toning it down a bit, and perhaps practicing your gestures in front of a test audience first. While you definitely want to avoid inappropriate hand gestures, you might also be able to optimize yours to maximize your presentation’s effect. It’s been documented that certain hand gestures can help you communicate more effectively.
4. Chewing, Toe Tapping, Fidgeting
If you’re a fidgety person, learn to control it. Try to avoid tapping, or bouncing, your feet; don’t ever chew gum in court, and definitely avoid chewing on your pen, or pencil. These things are distracting and have a tendency to annoy both judges and juries, especially if you come off looking impatient. Though for glasses wearers, adjusting your glasses, so long as you don’t do it too often, can be one nervous tick that makes you look astute.
Yes, you want to make eye contact with jurors, judges, and witnesses. But, you don’t want people to think that you’re staring at them, or someone else. There’s a fine line between making eye contact and connecting with a person, and staring at them.