So you're on trial for something awful, and your lawyer thinks it would be a good idea if you testify in your own defense. He's probably going to give you lots of pointers, like don't be a creep and try not to say "OK, you got me!" before extending your arms for the handcuffs. What you might not expect is for him to coach you into speaking faster than you normally would.
If the stenographer's hands are on fire, you're doing it right.
Which is nuts, because those of us raised on television know that the first thing a sleazy salesman does to pull one over on us is talk fast. How many of us have been cajoled into buying cars, regular or micro, because of slick, fast-talking ad men?
Studies have shown that someone who speaks rapidly is viewed as more persuasive and more intelligent than someone who speaks at a slower pace. If a person speaks slowly, they're seen as less truthful and less competent, aka a moron. So how fast should you speak? In one study, people were most persuasive when they talked about 30 percent faster than normal talking speed. However, you can go up to 195 words a minute. That's about as fast as the guys who race through a list of horrible drug side effects, like "sudden bowel implosion," while the commercial shows women running through a field of flowers.
And dry mouth.
And if you think about it, it makes sense. If you're listening to someone you don't agree with, fast talking is more persuasive because your brain can't come up with counterarguments. You're so busy drowning in a verbal flood that you're not thinking of reasons you don't agree with the guy. Yes, it's something sleazy salesmen do. But remember, sleazy salesmen do it for a reason.
So your day in court has come, and the jury has found you as guilty as a fox in a whorehouse. There's nothing left to do but begin researching your prison workout routine and figure out which gang you're going to join, right? Not quite. There's still some sentencing to do, and that means the game isn't over. What happens next might mean the difference between sleeping in your own bed at night and sleeping with your back glued to a cinder block wall. And if there's one thing that might get the judge and jury on your side, it's saying you're sorry.
"You'll never murder again? Perfect! Here's a tissue."
Yep, the same thing that got you out of a grounding when you were 10 can shave years off your sentence when standing trial for murdering a dude. Despite what the law says, despite all the evidence, you can get off easy if you just say you're sorry. It's true even if you were found guilty after pleading innocent; even though you just spent the last few months insisting you didn't do the crime at all, they still go easier on you if you apologize.
Why? Because that apology is your last chance to do a few things: one, start the process of closure for whoever you screwed over; two, give the judge a chance to see you as a normal person who gets the difference between right and wrong (meaning it's safe to put you back on the street, regardless of what you did); and three, practice your puppy-dog eyes, which you're going to need once you get to jail.
"I didn't mean to steal millions of dollars and offload them into an overseas bank account!"
The trick is that now that you're found guilty, everyone expects you to do whatever it takes to get a lenient sentence. So how do you convey that you're really sorry? For one, "act uncomfortable or ill at ease." There's something primal about seeing someone squirm when they've done wrong. That awkward body language tells everyone in the room that you know you're a screw-up. Next, the second that guilty verdict comes down, change your attitude. Look sad. Look defeated.
And no matter what, don't look bored. This is isn't an SAT prep class; this is your life on the line! Literally, if you've done murder. In one study, "if jurors believed that the defendant was sorry for what he had done, they tended to sentence him to life imprisonment, not death." Not. Death.
In fact, if you don't apologize, some judges might think you're just an unrepentant prick and throw any chance of leniency out the window. And really, if you can't even manage to fake some remorse in that situation, you probably deserve it.
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