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Dr. Ken Manges, Ph.D. Forensic Psychologist

I have often wondered if life would be different if I had the gift of gab, an effortless yet genuine ability to communicate and to get my point across without feeling I had pushed the time and patience constraints of my listening and viewing audience. Well, it seems help is on the horizon.

In a recent article in DRI (For the Defense, October 2014) two enterprising associate attorneys have taken on the task of mentoring their litigation colleagues by offering tactics in “Speak Psychology.” Although as a forensic psychologist and one who talks about the ability to communicate after a head injury, dementia and those experiencing Asperger’s, I take umbrage with attorneys taking the lead on persuasion and communication strategies. I must admit they have some excellent points.

Telling a story when talking to the jury is a must. How you say is even more important than what you say. Framing the important elements of the scenario is an essential part of the litigator’s techniques. Schafer and Waers propose, and rightfully so from a psychological perspective, that listeners can recall and be persuaded by a well designed verbal presentation. The listener can “hear” and later “recall” your essential points when offered in a 2-3-1 sequence.

  • The second most important element first
  • The least important element second
  • The most important element

Why you ask? Well, as psychologists we understand what a person hears and then makes a decision about follows a basic communication principle of primary, recency and frequency. We recall best what we hear last, i.e. serial position effect. So, tell your listener what you are going to tell them with the punch line last. It works with humor and it works with memory for events we want our listener to recall.

I share the belief that there are fewer opportunities to do trial work where you will get to practice and pursue your search for charismatic nirvana. But there is a desperate need and an infinite number of opportunities to communicate yourself with compassion, and clarity. Practice telling your story. Allow all of your communications to maximize your innate ability to persuade from a position of genuine belief in yourself and your client.

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