Are you your own best advocate? As women, we tend to bring our A-game advocating for others, but often leave that Momma bear at home when advocating for ourselves. I recently interviewed Heather Hanson (CEO of Advocate to Win) for my Art of Feminine Negotiation podcast and we explored the idea of women achieving greater results for themselves by advocating with the tools of a trial attorney. I thought I’d share these hot tips with you here. And the beauty is that you don’t have to go to school for 19+ years to get your law degree and you don’t have to incur the debt of student loans to access this powerful strategy!
You’ve no doubt heard me observe that all of life is a negotiation. Similarly, we all advocate every day. What if you brought the secret weapons of a trial lawyer to bear in your daily advocacy on behalf of yourself? Imagine the power that would come with adopting that approach, with intention to your daily life.
You’ve also no doubt heard me expound that the most important negotiation at the outset is the one with yourself. Heather applies this concept in reference to trial advocacy and so she’s dubbed it your ‘inner jury’. I love this concept. In the courtroom, juries decide between the ‘stories’ (sides) they’re presented with which one they’ll choose to believe. Your inner jury makes decisions every day about which story you tell yourself it ought to believe. Whether it’s competing stories about whether you’re enough (smart enough, powerful enough, pretty enough); scarcity versus abundance; hope versus despair; fear versus faith; … the list goes on.
What if you could apply a litigator’s toolkit first to your inner jury and then to your outer jury?
Let’s start with your language. The best trial attorneys are known for their skill at wordplay and clever use of language to increase their persuasive abilities. You use words every day as well. Think of the increased potential power if you got more intentional about the language you used … with yourself and beyond. Language matters. Our inner voice can either uplift us or shackle us. The words we use can increase our confidence or shake our sense of self. They can create optimism and strength or sap our energy and hope. Choosing to use empowering language with yourself will make you more powerful and allow you to show up as the best version of yourself.
Similarly, the language you use with your ‘outer jury’ will determine your level of influence. Let’s face it, effective advocacy is all about maximizing your influence. And if you think you don’t have an ‘outer jury’, think again. As Heather points out, we all have outer juries, whether it’s your family, friends, clients, etc. The language I use to get my desired outcome with my kids is not the same language I’d use with my intimate partner and certainly not the language I’d use with my clients or with opposing counsel. You get the idea. I invite you to get intentional about your words and how you use them. Don’t risk losing your jury when a little consideration about your messaging could save the day.
Another key to effective advocacy is credibility. You need it in the courtroom, and you need it in life. Again, this starts with your inner jury. You won’t be your most effective advocate unless you believe yourself. I mean that in both senses of the word. You need to believe in yourself. Your self-worth has to be non-negotiable. And you need to believe in your position in order to convince your outer jury to believe in you and whatever you’re advocating for.
Under Heather’s system, she notes that the jury is not there to judge – they’re there to choose. Your inner jury needs to choose what will serve you to help you get what you want in life. Your job is to help your own inner jury “choose the side that will serve you”. Your job as an advocate vis-à-vis the outer jury is to help them choose your position.
Another litigator’s tool is the power of questions. How often have you watched a suspenseful court scene in a movie or T.V. show and wished you wielded the power to have someone ‘succumb’ to your will? The good news is that you don’t have to cross-examine your loved ones or other contacts to get the results you want. Heather and I agree that the starting point is always asking yourself powerful questions to get clarity on what you want, need and how to get there. Once you have that clarity, consider how you can more effectively use questions to sway or move your outer jury to your position. And remember that you’re not trying to overpower or trick your jury. You need your jury to get where you want them to go. In court, we build our arguments through the use of strategic questions. And so can you.
One of the things you’ll want to use those questions for is creating perspective. In the courtroom, one sides presents their version or story. Opposing counsel’s job is then to offer the other perspective. The same holds true in your life. When faced with adversity, obstacles, resistance, your job is to find and give the other side of that story its voice. There is always another perspective. Find that other way of looking at the situation. First for your inner jury, and then for the outer jury.
Once you’ve uncovered the other story, you’ll need to find evidence to support it. For your inner jury, the key is often just allowing yourself to discover that other story – not buying in to the old story that no longer serves you. Once you do that, your brain will work to find evidence to support that reality for you. But be careful. Your brain will try to find that evidence whether you ask it for evidence to the limiting story or the more empowered story. Be sure to choose the empowered version of the story. Re the outer jury, remember your goal is to get them to choose your story. To do that, you need to give them the evidence to support it.
So now, go forth with your new trial advocacy tools and try them out. Practice them. Use them to become your best advocate … to get more of what you want and deserve in life.