Trial Day 22 – Prove It

As you’ve seen from the challenges, there is much we can learn from courtroom trials. Complaints, objections, and the skillful use of questions are all things we can master in our lives outside the courtroom. But none of that matters without proof.

In my consulting work, I see leaders who want dynamic teams, and call center employees who are expected to delight their customers. None of that can happen until expectations are met, and promises are kept.

I can be dynamic and delightful in court but if I don’t prove my case, with evidence, I can’t win. If I make a promise to the jury, you’d best believe I keep it. And if they expect to see something, I show it to them or I’d better have a good explanation if I don’t. You have to do the same. Whether you are dealing with your colleagues, your clients, your customers or your family, prove it. Prove what you say it true, and prove you will do what you promise. Prove it to them, and prove it to yourself.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO PROVE IT. If you say something, promise something, or set an expectation, be ready to prove it. You can only rely on delight and charisma for so long. Sooner or later, you have to prove yourself. Prove it, prove yourself, and prove it to yourself. Get yourself some evidence, and use it to win.

And comment! What will you prove, and how will you do it? I have faith in you. Show us what you’ve got.

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 21 – Indulge Your Curiosity

Trial attorneys have to indulge their curiosity long before we reach the courtroom. We have to start during the discovery process, asking every possible question we can think of and chasing down every possible lead. Because the answers and the leads are the key to a win or a loss. Once at trial, we can’t take the chance of asking a bunch of questions we don’t already know the answer to in front of the jury. So we have to ask those questions ahead of time, indulging our curiosity as much as we can.

Indulging your curiosity will also lead to more wins for you. The research on curiosity is clear. It is the key to learning, and one of the strongest markers of academic success. It also can be used to improve your personal relationships. In my workshops I often remind participants that curiosity may have killed the cat, but curiosity also creates connections, and connections make us better.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO INDULGE YOUR CURIOSITY. Ask why. Ask it of yourself, and ask it of others. Look around you, instead of at your phone, and then ask questions about what you see. Listen, and ask questions about what you hear. The more you indulge your curiosity, the more you’ll learn today and every day. And SHARE! Remember, if you comment you get a little something from me at the end, and if you share the most (on social media, or in emails where you copy me) you get a bigger something! So share away.

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 20 – Rebel

I’ve always been a good girl. When I was in high school, my parents let me take the Volvo station wagon out at night, but I was under strict instructions not to let anyone drink in the car. We’d go from house to house in a caravan of cars, all of them packed to the brim with teenagers. Then there was me, pulling up the back all by my lonesome in a huge station wagon. I was not a rebel.

That’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, you have to do the unexpected, and shake things up. Embracing discomfort and breaking established norms are sometimes the only way to get things done. And they’re often the best way to get things done. Francesca Gino has written an entire book on the topic, Rebel Talent, and in it she makes the case for being a rebel. On page 20 of her book, she discusses a study that shows we perceive people who interrupt others as more assertive than those who don’t interrupt, and those who express anger as mightier than those who express sadness. Perhaps you have to lose the halo. It gets heavy, it hurts your neck, and sometimes people see angels as boring. As one of my friends has often said, perfection isn’t sexy.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO REBEL. Be willing to question authority, especially if that authority is your pesky inner voice. Be willing to have disagreements, and to stand apart. Maybe even be willing to get in trouble, if that trouble is worth it.

How will you rebel today? What does rebellion even look like to you? Share your take on rebellion, and be sure to share the challenge as well. The entire challenge, every day (so far), is up on my website so it is never to late for someone to join. The more people discussing these ideas, the better. See you tomorrow!

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 19 – Catch Your Breath

When we started the 30 Days of Trials Challenge, school had just begun and everyone was easing into new schedules after a long (HOT) summer. You’ve probably been running around like crazy ever since. TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO CATCH YOUR BREATH. When athletes have been running hard and long, they need time to catch their breath before they can begin again. So do we.

Breathe. In your nose, out your mouth. Then do it again. See how good that feels? Did you know that taking a deep breath through your nose improves cognitive function? It also improves your mood, and maybe your life. I don’t care how fast you are, or how strong you are, sooner or later you have got to catch your breath. I learned that when my mentor and uncle, John O’Brien, had a heart attack in the courtroom. It’s a story I tell in my book, but suffice to say he hadn’t taken time to catch his breath in a long while. Nor had I. And after that experience, I swore that with every sprint, I’d find time to catch my breath. I swore that with every marathon, I’d find even more time. But I’ve failed.

I’ve broken those promises, and haven’t always given myself the vacations and the breaks I’d promised myself. I write these challenges as much for me as for you. Today, let’s all take the time to catch our breath. It may mean meditating for a little longer, reading a book in the shade, or taking a warm bath. Whatever it is, go to the place where your breath is waiting for you. Catch it, and sit with it for a short while. Then carry on with your sprint, or your marathon, better for the additional oxygen in your lungs and the smile on your face.

Now share with us–when was the last time you caught your breath? What does that look like for you? Give us some suggestions of good ways to catch your breath, and we will all learn from one another. Deep breath in the nose, out the mouth. See you tomorrow!

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 18 – Words Create Realities

“God could have made us stone creatures, tree creatures, sea creatures, winged creatures, but God made us speech creatures instead. Human beings made in God’s own likeness, which is to say, capable of joining God in the work of creation by speaking things into being ourselves.” (from Jonathan Merritt’s book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch, quoting Barbara Brown Taylor). We create by speaking things into being.

Any good trial attorney knows the power of words. I’ll never forget one trial I had early in my career. The patient’s attorney had my doctor on the stand, cross examining him with vigor. He was trying to get him to agree with something, and using the doctor’s own deposition to do so. But in reading the doctor’s deposition to the doctor and the jury, he was leaving words out. I objected, because words have meaning. EVERY WORD had meaning.

Words win and lose cases. Words create realities. We must be very aware of what we are creating with ours. Merritt’s book quoted above, is about sacred words and how they are vanishing. But his book is worth reading no matter what your spiritual outlook. Because, as he explains, words do create our reality. His book brought me to the work of Lera Boroditsky, a linguist with a fabulous TED talk on language. She relays that when Americans are asked to point north, most of us don’t have a clue.  But when a community on the Western shores of Australia’s Cape York was asked to point north, children as young as 5 were able to do so. Their language uses the points on a compass the way we use left and right. And thus, they are aware of north at all times. What you talk about becomes a part of you.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO BE AWARE OF THE WORDS YOU USE. If you want to know north, you speak about north. If you want to know happiness, strength, community, or love, speak about these things.

What words do you use, and how do they serve you? Are there words that would better serve you, and things you would rather create? Share with us what it is you’d like to speak into existence. In Hebrew, Abracadabra means I create what I speak. Abracadabra indeed.

Share with us, and with your friends. Help your loved ones use their words to create reality too. Remind them that it’s never too late to join the challenge, and if they choose only one day today is as good as any. See you tomorrow.

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 17 – Challenge With Questions

I don’t win my cases with arguments. In any given trial, the opportunities to argue are few, and they often happen outside the presence of the jury. Most of the arguments get us nowhere closer to a win. The way we actually win cases is by asking questions.

Questions are magic. They’re your superpower. You can use questions to gain trust, to gain perspective, and to gain dates. But you can also use questions to win. Lawyers do this all the time. We ask witnesses questions, and hope that the answers will prove our case to the jury. When we’re questioning our witnesses, those questions are softballs, ready to be hit out of the park. When we question adverse witnesses, on the other hand, those questions are bombs, meant to destroy on contact. You might want to find a happy medium.

But rest assured, you can challenge with questions. I do it on cross exam all the time. I challenge an expert’s opinions with questions. I challenge a witness’ recollection with questions. And I challenge a jury’s preconceived notions about the case with questions. Lawyer learn this early. In law school, many of our professors use the Socratic method. That means that they teach us by asking questions. Often these questions are aggressive, probing and even punishing. Many law students live in dread of being called on in class. In our classes we had microphones, and when someone in our row was chosen for the hot seat the person next to them would slide the microphone over in relieved sympathy. We learned a lot of things in those classes, but most of all we learned the power of questions. Today you get to use that power. TODAY’S CHALLENGE-TRY TO CHALLENGE WITH QUESTIONS.

You could use questions to challenge someone you are arguing with, and you could use questions to challenge yourself and your inner critic. You can challenge anything with a few good questions. How will you use this magic? What questions will you ask to challenge yourself, your loved ones or your colleagues? Share your questions, and maybe even challenge one another with some questions in the forum. I can’t wait to see what you ask.

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 15 – Use Your Voice

Has anyone every told you to “use your voice”? You know it’s important. You want to use your voice.   The why is clear. If you don’t speak up–for yourself, your passions, your family, and your dreams, who will? But the when, the where, and the how are the challenge. Everyone tells you to use your voice, but no one tells you how to use it.

Lawyers are called counselors for a reason. I am privileged to counsel my clients on how to use their voices. When we prep for trial, we spend hours on the different ways a voice can be used. And now, in my consulting work, I work with clients on HOW to use their voices to be better teammates, better leaders, and build better relationships with their clients.  The HOW of using your voice takes too long to cover here. But the first step is to be aware. 

Before you can use your voice effectively, you have to be aware of what you want to say. Too often we lash out and speak without awareness, and the results of those words can change our jobs, our families and our lives. But when we realize that the first step of using our voices is not opening our mouths but opening our minds, things get better. 

It starts with awareness of our words, but we also have to be aware of how we want to say them. Watch your tone, because tone is everything.  During Trial Day 9 (the listening challenge), we talked a little bit about the power of your tone of voice. Don’t underestimate that power. The tone of your voice can be a clue to whether your partner is cheating. And if you’re a woman, the tone of your voice can make plants grow faster. As I discuss in my upcoming book, I believe the tone of my voice was the key to some of my victories at trial. Imagine what else your voice could do….

Use your voice. It sounds so easy. We all know that it’s not. But here’s one thing I’d bet my bottom dollar on–if you start with awareness, your voice, and all of the things you speak for,  will thank you.

Let us know how you choose to use your voice today. Share below, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

PS–it’s actually only been 21 years as a trial lawyer. I started as a law clerk, so it feels like 25!

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 14 – Stop Looking For Objections

With all this talk about objections, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to spend your life looking for them. Here’s the wonderful thing: when the time comes to object, you feel it in your heart and in your gut. Trust yourself.

Twenty years in the courtroom taught me that I had to stop looking for objections. Once I became comfortable objecting, I looked for objections everywhere. And sometimes, I was so busy looking for objections that I missed things. I missed what the witness had said, or had left unsaid. I missed the tone of the witness’ voice, or her body language. I was so busy looking for objections that I was missing the things that could have led me to an important question, or an important piece of evidence. I was so busy looking for objections that I risked missing the win.

Don’t spend your life looking for objections. Looking for objections is a lot like looking for reasons to be offended–if you look for them, you’ll find them. Instead, look for fun, for laughter, for connections. You find what you look for, and these are the things you want to find. Objections should be the exception and not the rule.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO STOP LOOKING FOR OBJECTIONS. You don’t have to worry that you’ll miss them. When something is objectionable, you know it. And in those instances, object with confidence. But don’t spend your life looking for those moments. The things you focus on, grow. Science shows this to be true. The Baader Meinhoff phenomenon explains why once you’ve decided on a new car to buy, suddenly that make and model of car shows up everywhere. The things you just notice suddenly show up everywhere. No one wants objections to be showing up everywhere they look.

Where in your life are you looking for objections? And is it distracting you from something better, more productive, or more fun? Share with us how you will work to stop looking for objections, even if just for a day.  Then share this with someone who could use the reminder to stop looking for objections in her own life. See you tomorrow!

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 13 – Overcome Objections

We all have to be able to overcome objections as well. Other people are bound to object to what you do, or how you do it. They object, and you have to find the words and the ways to overcome. This, too, has its own chapter in my book as it is a big topic. Overcoming objections is as important as learning to object. It can be hardest when the person who is objecting, the person whose objection you must overcome, is you.

We stop ourselves far more often than others stop us. We want to try something new, but then the inner objections hold us back. Our inner objections stop us from trying, from moving, from being vulnerable, and from listening. They even stop us from objecting! If you’ve been doing the challenges thus far, you’ve probably been overcoming your own inner objections. That’s my wish for you. Because you have to overcome them to win.

In my book I tell the story of how I learned how to overcome objections in a Judge’s chambers. There, I learned the best way to overcome objections is with two words. “SO WHAT?” Because when your inner objections are examined in the light of this question, they often can’t survive. Here’s an example. I have inner objections every time I do a challenge.

“No one will sign up.”

“So what?”

“People will think you’re silly.”

“So what?”

“People won’t understand why you’re doing this.”

“So what?”

I ask “So what?”, and then I answer. And when I do, I usually find that the answer isn’t fatal. So no one signs up–the only thing I’ve lost is time, and since writing these challenges helps me become a better writer, it’s not a loss. So people think I’m silly. Sometimes I am.  So people don’t understand. They don’t need to understand And when I find those who do understand, I know I’ve found my community.

There are also times you have to overcome other’s objections. You can use “So What?” there too, but it has to be more curious. Why are you having this objection? What are you afraid of, and how can I overcome it in a way that works for both of us? These two words can be the key to unlocking better relationship with yourself and others.

Overcoming objections takes confidence, but it also builds confidence. You need confidence to succeed in life. In fact, one study showed that highly confident candidates were 2.5 times more likely to be hired for a job. Whether you want a job, an opportunity, or a relationship, you have to have to build the confidence muscle to get it. Overcoming objections is your exercise for today.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS. Start with your own. They tend to hold us back the most. And then share. What is one inner objections that is holding you back? And how can you overcome that sole objection today? Share with us, and share with others who need help with overcoming objections. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Heather Hansen

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Trial Day 12 – Learn To Object

Today I want to talk about learning to object. I give entire keynotes on this topic, and it has a full chapter in my book, so this is just a tease. But it’s an important one. You have to learn to object effectively. You have to learn to stand up, use your voice, and set your boundaries. Because no one can do it for you.

You might think that they can. As a child, you depended on your parents to object for you. I know I did. If someone hurt me,  I quickly looked to my parents to fix it. Women especially tend to look to others to do their objecting for them. We’re taught to be nice, and not to rock the boat. There’s value in that, as rocking the boat can get your wet and without a ride. But sometimes, you have to rock the boat. And only YOU can know when that time is, for you. 

The way I object in the courtroom taught me a lot about objecting in life.For me, there are 3 steps.

1-Stand Up. Action often precedes motivation, and sometimes all it takes to object is a little movement. There are even times when the movement itself is enough. A shake of the head, standing in protest, or leaving are all small movements with great impact.

2-Use Your Voice. This gets its own day a little later, but it bears repeating. We are the only creatures on Earth with the gift of language. We have to learn to use our own, singular voice. This takes practice.

3-Set Your Boundary. Only YOU know what that boundary is. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa. You have to know your boundaries, and set them for yourself.  It’s worth your effort, because your boundaries are shown to be an important part of your personal identity and self esteem.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE–TRY TO OBJECT. When and where will you object today? Maybe it’s when you see someone else being spoken down to, or maybe it’s when you’re on the receiving end of that behavior. You don’t have to scream, yell, or fight. But you might have to stand up, use your voice, and set your boundary. And then share. How do you feel about objecting? Does it come easily for you? And if it doesn’t, why not? This was a hard one for me, in court and in life. But it’s also been the key to my wins.

Don’t forget to comment and to share!

Heather Hansen

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