When I say this it makes me laugh because I can imagine you’re thinking “How do I actively listen?” Do I strain my ears? Do I blow air out of my ears to hear better? How does one actively listen?
Well, obviously I mean that you should pay very close attention. Don’t just HEAR the words, but listen to what is asked. Pay close attention that you understand the question and answer ONLY the question asked.
Here are few more tips on how to pay attention when being deposed.
1. Clear your mind of everything else, and listen carefully to every word of every question asked of you. Legal questions are frequently complex and require your full attention.
2. Listen to the question all the way through. Legal questions are often lengthy. If you start formulating your answer in your mind before the end of the question, you may miss the crucial part of the question and answer incorrectly.
3. Take your time. Don’t be in a rush to answer questions. You won’t get out of there faster, if anything, you’ll answer poorly and be testifying longer.
4. Pause before speaking. This gives you time to make sure you fully understand the question before answering, and to gather your thoughts before you open your mouth.
5. Think. Don’t answer on the fly, off the cuff. Everything you say is recorded and matters. Think before speaking. Jurors respect people who think, but when something is clearly easily answered. If you take too much of pause for obvious answers, it becomes obvious that you are trying to deflect.
6. Answer the question asked. Not the question you think the attorney’s going to ask next, the question you wish they’d asked, or the question previously asked. Answer the question actually asked. This may mean that you need to explain something LATER, but at the moment just answer what is asked.
7. Give the information requested, not more. Don’t volunteer. If you’re asked for one example, give one, not two. If you’re asked for your date of birth, don’t volunteer where you were born and how the world was blessed by the event.
8. Answer only what you know. Don’t guess. It’s OK not to remember something; “I don’t remember,” or “I don’t recall.”
9. Give a range or ballpark if you’re asked to estimate something, and only if you can: “Between 10 and 20 minutes” is OK, so is “I don’t know.” In fact, I prefer that you do NOT give ranges or estimates because it’s a guess that may be totally different from the scientific evidence. For example, suppose you were asked how many seconds elapsed between you noticed the vehicle ahead of you before you hit it and you guessed “Five Seconds.” That may not sound very long, but NOW count to five or watch five seconds go by on your watch. It actually seems a lot longer.
10. Be consistent. If you’re asked the same question in slightly different ways, stick with your original answer. Only change it if it’s inaccurate, not just because opposing counsel repeats the question.
Next week I will talk about the importance of clarity. In the meantime, if there is anything I can do for your day or night, please don’t hesitate to call. You can reach us at 318-222-2426 or on my cellphone at 318-617-1960. Even if you have just a quick question, we want to be there for you.