Jul 16

The art of presentation is an integral aspect of the legal profession regardless of your particular practice.  Whether you are providing direction and counsel to a client, wooing potential referral sources, or influencing a judge or jury at trial, good presentation skills matter.  Essential to your presentation skills is the ability to project confidence and power to those you wish to influence.  This goes for new and experienced practitioners alike.  And, it all begins with the way in which you view yourself.  If you don’t believe in your abilities, then how can you persuade others to trust and respect you?

 

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School, has a solution.  Last year, Cuddy gave a TEDTalk (which, by the way, has over 18,000,000 views) entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”.  In that talk, she discussed her research on how the concept of “power posing” can change not only how others perceive you, but also how you perceive yourself.  She found that by embracing a “high-power pose” for two minutes, you can increase levels of testosterone by 20 percent and decrease levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol by 25 percent.  With these physical changes transforming the way in which you think and feel about yourself, you can thereby project a more positive and confident image to others.

 

Concluding her talk, Cuddy described a challenging personal experience where she was convinced she would fail.  With the encouragement of her college advisor to “fake it until [she] ma[d]e it,” she did just that through undergrad, graduate school, and as a teacher until she forgot that she was faking it and actually became it.  Her message: “Fake it ‘til you become it.”

 

Dr. Shawn Healy, a clinical psychologist at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, provides some context to this phenomenon:

Physical and chemical influences on our confidence are interrelated with strong psychological factors as well.  Most people at some point in their lives experience what is known as the Imposter Syndrome.  This is when a person feels like he/she is a fake or significantly inadequate as compared to those around him/her.  We often judge others by what they show us (usually the best image they can muster), while we judge ourselves based on all the positive and negative information we have on ourselves. This can result in an overly positive view of others’ competence and an overly negative view of our own abilities.  Practicing a “power pose” can help quickly boost your confidence. I recommend combining this with a technique to maintain your confidence, which is to view yourself and others nonjudgmentally, as “people with doubts and flaws that try the best they can, just like me”.  Once you feel more powerful yourself, use that power to build others up, not tear them down.  Productive strength is much more powerful and influential than destructive strength.

 

So, next time you are gearing up to make a presentation, meet with a client, or give an opening statement, take two minutes to “power pose” and see how it impacts you and your audience.

 

Heidi Alexander, Esq.

Law Practice Advisor

Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program

 

A portion of this post originally appeared in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s eJournal.

 

Jun 27

Our minds and bodies crave balance. When we have the proper amounts of both rest and activity, we function closer to our optimum level. Needless to say, when we experience too much activity (particularly the unhealthy, stressful type) and not enough rest, we function at a much lower level than is possible. Merriam-Webster describes stress as “a state…of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium,” or in other words stress disrupts our internal state of balance. The quickest way to disrupt one’s sense of relaxation or equilibrium is to introduce a threat. We all face threats in our lives, some real and some imagined. The body’s reaction to a perceived threat has more to do with your perception of the threat and less to do with the objective nature of that threat. When thinking about how we perceive a threat, we must be aware that inherent in our appraisal of the threat is our appraisal of ourselves in comparison to that threat. For example, if you perceive getting into a physical altercation (someone you are dealing with becomes so upset they threaten to hit you) and disappointing others (making people feel bad, having others think poorly of you) as the same level of threat, and you see yourself as being unable to handle both threats, your body will have the same “Fight or Flight” reaction (activation of your Sympathetic Nervous System) leading to prolonged stress. Continue reading »

Jun 19

Have you ever wondered if there were things you could be doing differently to increase your productivity or have a greater sense of mastery and satisfaction in your work and life in general?  If you answer “YES” to this, you are not alone!

Let’s examine what skills and practices are important and essential in helping you to produce outcomes you desire.  Professional sports have a lot to teach us and are ahead of the curve in understanding and implementing skills and practices that allow them to extract their best performance and achieve satisfaction, even when they don’t win.

Professional sportsmen (and women) know the value of good self-care and how it positively impacts their performance, success, and sense of wellbeing.  Pro basketball players and pro cyclists have made dietary changes such as going gluten-free to give their bodies better recovery and nutritional balance with surprisingly good outcomes.  They have learned the benefits of rest/recovery in order to recharge their systems for the next challenge.  They understand the benefits of meditation, and quieting their minds and central nervous systems as a way to harness energy and creativity.  They know that visualization and repetition decrease anxiety and fear, as well as enhance their self-confidence and mastery in their ability to deliver optimal performance.

Professional athletes’ training and preparation provide a helpful and workable template that anyone can incorporate and use to better their performance to meet desired and targeted goals.  Why should lawyers, students or judges reinvent the wheel when they can borrow some of these same ideas and techniques? If this interests you, call LCL and come and speak to one of our clinicians about ways you might look at developing your own “optimum performance” in your practice and life in general.

 

Barbara J Bowe, LICSW

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