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January 2014 - Communication and Trial Practice Tips for the Women Lawyer
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Communicating Happiness - Revive Your Pollyanna

by Cynthia R. Cohen, Ph.D., Verdict Success LLC


Skip the standard resolutions about diet or exercise after the holidays. This year do something different to inspire your goals – capture happiness. It will attract everything else on your goal list. Be in the moment and write down happy things that occur each day. Had a bad day? Somewhere there is a silver lining with something that made you happy for an instant at least. Start somewhere even on a bad day. Visualization is a powerful tool. It helps coping with tough or boring tasks. Deciding what to include in this column includes a little personal history and motivation for developing new skills for 2014.

Zumba makes me happy. Yes, the endorphins kick in. Best time to deal with a chore that needs coping skills is after a workout. Last week when rushing groceries into the house, my car door was left slightly ajar. A few days later the car wouldn’t start. The service shop quoted $300 for a new battery. Comparison-shopping online made it clear the $300 was over charge. I planned to purchase a new battery after Zumba. When I got in the car to dial AAA, surprisingly it started. I didn’t need a battery after all. Saving time and money makes me happy. 

Inspiration from a plan simplified begat the idea of noting 7 things a day that make me happy. A simple smile or thank you, a favorite food, a vacation plan, a day of golf, an automatic driver’s license renewal, a new case, a seat on a board, or a date. With beautifully covered journals, there are blank pages for scribbling or scribing. Realistically if I add one happy instance each day, I will be a happier person. Here are reflections on areas to easily seek happiness. 

Teaching makes me happy. We learn when we teach . . . focus on modeling the skills about what to do right. Pointing out what someone did wrong without demonstrating the correct or right response or action leaves the student with the mental picture of the wrong concept. The same goes for witness preparation as for learning golf skills. Focus on the discrete behavior and what is good about the way one communicates. I used analogies about golf when teaching witnesses about communication years before I was a true golfer. There are so many analogies from golf that apply to life in general. In our WLALA Golf League, I teach ready play. This includes arriving early, keep a backup in your pocket, know who is closest/furthest to the hole, keep quiet when others are striking the ball, fix divots on the fairway and greens whether they are yours or not, clean your shoes, be honest about your score, be ready with your tools and carry your sand wedge as insurance. Making others look good makes me happy on the course or in the courtroom. 

Organizing makes me happy. Designing a process, giving structure, and finding solutions produces great satisfaction. 2013 was the evolution of the WLALA Golf League and now a Southern California Golf Association Club with 28 founding members. A fabulous volunteer committee of 12 of us (including Karyn Abbott, Michelle Ahnn, Gladys Aquino, Deborah Chodos, Maria Hamar, Reena Lalji, Molly McKibben, Heather Stern, Bonnie Treichel, Victoria Wilkerson, Caroline Vincent) will enjoy organizing course arrangements, clinics, and 19th hole celebrations for this Club. January is a time for organizing.

Numbers make me happy. Numbers are my life. I mutter numbers all day long. "I have 6 things to do this morning.” "I have 3 errands to run.” "I have 12 calls to make.” "There are 400 calories in this ice cream.” Born January 1, #1 is my favorite number. Seriously, working with numbers came natural to me or so I thought until an older sister told me she taught me the times tables when I was four. I became a social scientist designing studies and crunching numbers, because no one ever told me to be afraid of numbers. The right numbers make people happy.

Yes, Pollyanna had good qualities. When asking ourselves "What makes me happy?” rather than "What is wrong with me?” we attract what we want. Dancing whether you are on the right foot or not, there is no competition except with yourself. There is so much to learn from keeping a journal of happy moments. Happy New Year 2014!


WLALA Member Cynthia Cohen specializes in jury research, trial strategies, and settlement decision-making at Verdict Success. Dr. Cohen can be reached at 310-545-7914 or

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