In preparing your witness for court, one simple, yet crucial, instruction can make a significant difference in their testimony: “Sit up straight.”

Sitting up straight will help the witness breathe more easily and efficiently. Slouching collapses the upper body against the diaphragm and makes it harder to speak, think, and feel confident. Slow, deep breaths help calm the witness in the stressful situation of testifying and will control the effects of adrenaline. Deep breaths also bring more oxygen to the brain to help your witness think more clearly.

Beyond these physical effects, a recent study found that upright posture also has a positive effect on mood and confidence. The study tested “whether an upright seated posture could influence affective and cardiovascular responses to a psychological stress task, relative to a slumped posture.”

Seventy-four participants were asked to read a standard speech while either sitting upright or slumped. Researchers looked for changes in blood pressure, heart rate, mood, and self-esteem. They found that “upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants.” The researchers noted that “Adopting an upright posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to slumped posture.” They concluded that “Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.”

When preparing your witness, a reminder to sit up straight is a good place to start. Go one step further and offer them this tip to help them achieve proper alignment while sitting: Imagine that a bungee cord is attached to the top of your skull. Feel it pull you upward gently. Good posture is not a position you hold – it is a direction you feel: upward.


See our book The Articulate Witness for additional ways to help your witnesses testify more confidently.