Closing Argument, Jill D. Schmid Ph.D., Jury Persuasuion, Opening Argument, Social Labeling, Trial Tips & Techniques, Tsongas® Blog
“Everyday is a Great Day!” Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Social Labeling, by Jill D. Schmid Ph.D., Tsongas® Blog
‘Everyday is a great day!’ That’s what he said, and appeared to believe with every fiber of his body. He was a 20-something, male clerk in an airport hotel’s gift shop. My response to, ‘How are you today?’ paled in comparison. ‘Oh, alright,’ I said as I contemplated what was about to be a very long research day. I didn’t expect to have a philosophical discussion that morning, but after what he said, I couldn’t help but ask his secret. He looked so content, so convincing, so . . . what’s the word? Oh yeah, happy.
So I asked, and his answer stuck with me. He said about five years earlier he found himself in a tough spot; he was making poor choices; he was unhappy and making others around him unhappy. He decided to change his life, and he would do it by simply declaring that every day was special, that ‘everyday is a great day!’ He said from that point on, his attitude changed and he noticed that others’ attitudes also changed. He found that when he’d tell people that, they smiled and seemed a bit lighter, less stressed. I felt the same – his answer had reminded me that I should be focusing on the positive; that I should be thankful to have a job that allows me to have interesting and challenging conversations nearly every day; that I should be looking forward to interacting with a whole new group of people – people who had important things to say and from whom I would learn a lot. In short, it really was about to be a great day, and I needed to change my attitude.
I was reminded of this encounter during a recent jury selection. While I typically believe it’s somewhat of a waste of time to elicit ‘promises’ from your potential jurors (i.e., ‘Do you promise that you’ll give my client a fair shake?’ ‘Do you promise that you’ll follow all of the judge’s instructions?’ ‘Do you promise to not let your sympathies influence your decision?”), this attorney took a similar, but improved tack. His questions, and subsequent labeling of the jurors, utilized a well-researched phenomenon called ‘social labeling.’ . . .
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