Yes, lawyers can learn from actors….not accountants, or bankers, or other City types….but those skilled in the arena of stagecraft.
The point I’m going to make is that each profession has probably mastered a few things that other professions would benefit from.
For example, I was hearing one of our top swimming athletes saying that they had learned from ballet specialists and gymnasts and had successfully shaved a few hundredths of a second off their times.
Back to lawyers and actors….what are the things actors can teach lawyers about how to think, feel, behave to achieve better results when they go, as it were, on stage?
There are four classic stages for making interventions to change our patterns. We can influence:
- how we think
- how we feel
- how we behave
- how we see the results
Here’s how actors can help lawyers at each of these stages of the pattern:
Changing how lawyers think
Many lawyers have a stressful life and suffer from having negative thoughts, such as: ‘It’s could go badly’….’I’m not knowledgeable enough’….’What if this happens?’ Such thinking is unlikely to assist a positive outcome.
Actors (and others) use visualisation techniques to picture a positive outcome. I once asked a performer how they deal with nerves before they go on stage. She said ‘I tell myself that the audience are like children and they’ll want to follow me on a journey’. This transforms her state so she can walk on to the stage at her best.
The state we’re trying to create by intervening at this level is ‘I know how to do this and can see myself doing this well’.
Changing how lawyers feel
A nervous or anxious state can create physiological effects, such as sweaty palms, butterflies, raised heartbeat etc. Another one that you might be less aware of is a shallower breathing pattern.
A useful technique, again known to actors, is to regulate and steady the breathing – firstly by breathing out through the mouth and then taking a few slow deep breaths through the nose. After a few breaths, this can create a calmer more positive disposition.
The state we’re trying to create by intervening at this level is ‘I feel confident and relaxed about doing this’.
Changing how lawyers behave
Getting the body language right is so important to a successful outcome. Our workshops with lawyers work a lot on posture and voice. How do we stand, sit or speak when we’re at our best? How can we recreate this when in potentially more stressful situations?
We find it helpful to work with a video and give personal one-to-one feedback to lawyers. Sometimes the work we have successfully done on thinking and feeling is sufficient on its own to improve the behaviour. For other people, our intervention on the behaviour acts as the trigger to assist more beneficial thoughts and feelings. Again, transformational results have been achieved.
The state we’re trying to create by intervening at this level is ‘I am doing it well’.
Changing how lawyers see the results
Lawyers tend to be somewhat self-critical. They see what they didn’t get totally right. To some extent this is understandable given that profession needs to focus on getting everything correct (eg the wording of a complicated contract).
Actors are also working in a critical world and have needed to learn the art of seeing good and acknowledging the positives.
Lawyers could benefit from learning how to see the glass half full, rather than half empty.
The state we’re trying to create by intervening at this level is ‘I did x and y well and if I did z next time, it would be even better’.
I hope there’ve been some useful insights in this article. Maybe the next article in this series should be…..What Actors Could Learn from…..Lawyers?