Heather Hansen

Knock Over the Microphone

If you want to make a point,  knock over the microphone. 

When doctors are sued, they’re vulnerable, confused, angry and upset. And when it is time for them to testify, they often get quite nervous. Courtrooms are very different from operating rooms, and doctors aren’t comfortable in this new environment. When they have to climb up to that stand, face the jury and testify- things can get even more scary. I often try to distract the doctor with a story right before they testify. Recently, I was afraid this had backfired.

I’d been reading the book Captivate, and was struck by a study therein which said that the speakers whose TED talks were viewed the most used almost twice as many hand gestures as those with the least watched TED talks. This study fascinated me, as I study the power of body language and work to use that power when I can. I mentioned the book and the study to my doctor in the hours before he testified, not realizing just how much he would take it to heart.

He got up on the stand and turned to the jury, eager to explain what he did and why. He was ready to teach them the medicine he knew so well. And apparently he was also eager to use his hands to do so. He waved them, swung them and used them to make his points. In a crescendo of movement, he knocked over the microphone with a loud bang. I sat, transfixed and nervous. What would the jury think?

They thought he wasn’t negligent, and we won that case. The gestures certainly may have helped. Studies show we trust people more if we can see their hands. When your hands are hidden, you might have a weapon and therefore you’re a threat. But show your hands, and suddenly the listener is open to letting you show them your side of the story. You’re in the position to start advocating.

No matter what you do–salesperson, doctor, lawyer, parent–using your hands will help you get your message across.   Don’t be afraid to knock over the microphone. It might be the key to success. 

Heather Hansen

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