Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"How can you tell that a salesman is lying?  His lips are moving."

Last year I was on a jury in a criminal trial.  It was difficult because the crime was as clear as it was violent.  But the main problem was that the plaintiff and defendant were the only ones to witness - there was no one else around until after the incident.  There was no doubt that something occurred, but was it the crime alleged or something else?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the trial was the demeanor of the two and how it changed based on circumstance.  When the plaintiff was up first she told a compelling and moving story to the prosecutor, but upon cross examination she could no longer remember important details, was evasive, and at some point annoyed at every question.  Clearly her opening was an act, as demonstrated by her own testimony.

We were all set to free the defendant until he took the stand.  He was arrogant and confrontational, answering snidely like this was a complete waste of time and angry someone would even accuse him.  He acted exactly like the stereotypical picture the prosecutor painted.

So what at all does this have to do with learning?

Well, everything.  Because the one thing the plaintiff and defendant had in common was they had zero credibility.  It wasn't a matter of who was lying and who was telling the truth, as we concluded that they were both as dishonest as the day long.  And as instructors or designers, all we have is our credibility.

You don't know an answer and rattle off some BS?  Your audience can tell.  And they won't believe anything you say beyond that point, and probably reevaluate everything in their memory up to that.

One of the most powerful sentences you can utter is, "I don't know that but I can sure get you an answer."

And speaking of sentences: Guilty.

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