Listen, Think, Wait, Then Answer

Getting ready to be a witness can be an awesome task, especially if you are nervous because you have never testified before. To help you feel more at home on the witness stand, more confident and better prepared to testify, here are several common sense tips.

First, do these four things when answering questions: 
  • Listen,
  • Think,
  • Wait, then
  • Answer.

By “listen,” we mean you should focus intently and pay attention to what is being asked. Jumping to conclusions or assuming what the question will be and trying to get out an answer before the other person has finished the question will often cause you to “open a big, old, ugly can of worms,” which you will never be able to close again and which will result in your having to answer a bunch of questions that otherwise would never have been asked.

By “think,’ we mean you should never answer questions before being certain you have considered them and  formulated your shortest full answer to the question, just the question, and nothing but the question. Think before you respond to a question, just like you would in a normal, everyday conversation. If you do not understand any part of the question, then you should feel free to ask for clarification of any unclear part.

By “wait,” we mean you should pause long enough to allow your counselor to make an objection if he or she feels the need to. You do not  have to immediately answer every question as soon as it is asked. 

By “answer,” we mean you should simply reply to only the exact and specific question that is being asked and never go beyond that original question.

Trust us, all you have to do to be a good witness for your side of the case is be sincere, respectful and thoughtful so you will be credible in your testimony.

If we can help you at any time to help you prepare to testify in any matter, , please feel free to con
tact us at any time.

ABC's for Being a Witness!

Beyond “listen, think, wait, then answer,” here are 10 more ABC's for credible testimony:

  • Always Be Candid – 
    If you get caught in a lie, then you will damage your own credibility and your side of the case. Give direct answers and do not be evasive.
  • Always Be Competent –
    While you are not expected  to memorize every date and detail, you are expected to be competent and informative regarding issues about which you are testifying. We will work with you to be sure you appear cooperative, concerned with finding the truth, and careful.
  • Always Be Concise –
    Answer only the question being asked, preferably with a “yes” or “no” whenever you can. If you can’t answer yes or no, then answer with only one short sentence. If you cannot give a simple answer, ask the counsel directing the questioning to ask shorter ones.
  • Always Be Certain – 
    Never attempt to seem uncertain when you are certain, and do not try to be adamant when you are unsure. Know what the answer to the question is and just answer the exact question asked.
  • Always Be Courteous – 
    Maintain the same attitude with our and you opposing counsel as you do with us and we do with you. Politely answer all questions you are asked, but only the questions you are asked.
  • Always Be Confident – 
    Maintain good eye contact, keep you hands folded on table in front of you or in your lap, sit up straight, maintain your best posture, talk loudly and clearly, avoid fidgeting and never look to anyone else, especially your lawyer for guidance or answers.
  • Always Be Consistent –
    Avoid changing your prior answers whenever possible. If you feel the need to change something always discuss any anticipated changes with your counsel before testifying.
  • Always Be Composed –
    Testifying is stressful, so stay calm, cool, and collected.
  • Always Be Clear – 
    Clarity is an absolute must; so avoid mumbling, talking too fast or too slow, putting your hand over your mother or answering with gestures or nods or “uh-huh” or “uh-uh.”
  • Always Be Conservative –
    Present yourself as normally as possible so the average person can relate to you. Wear what you might wear to an important job interview, business meeting, or formal church service.

Testifying and Witnessing

Some General Advice

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