Etiquette is one of those essential things in life that separate people. Funnily enough, even the most rugged and horribly dressed person could present themselves in a formal manner if given the correct training and a fresh set of clothing. There aren’t many occasions in which we act formal. A wedding is perhaps one such example, and perhaps we eloquently present ourselves during a job interview in order to increase our chances of landing ourselves a new career. However, are these things really necessary?
When we walk into the courtroom, it feels like there’s an overwhelming pressure pushing down on us. The courtroom itself is a very familiar place even if you haven’t been inside of one on a regular basis. There’s the large podium where the judge stands with his wooden gavel, and do the side there might be extra booths for the defendant. Towards the side, there might be a shorthand reporter tapping away their keys, recording not words, but sounds. They keep track of everything being said, every cough being echoed and every nuance in the way you speak.
As you sit down and watch the judge enter the courtroom, it’s hard not to feel as though you’ve stepped into a film or an ancient ritual. Despite your personality outside of the courtroom, inside the courtroom it can feel as though you’re being overwhelmed by the glaring eyes of well-dressed individuals, so you have no choice but to follow what they do and act as they act. You speak differently inside of a courtroom, you’re influenced by things you normally wouldn’t care about, and even the slightest cough from the audience could make you paranoid about what’s happening.
There’s no doubt that the inside of a courtroom is overwhelming, but what does that tell us about how humans behave?
When in Rome
First of all, it tells us that humans are heavily influenced by those around them. In an unfamiliar and serious situation, we tend to follow the herd like sheep because we don’t know how to act. This kind of behavior is seen in local communities around the world. We pick up local jargon and behavioral tics from the people we grow up with and it also affects the types of interests we have.
However, those changes take a long time to develop. Imagine a child that is brought up for one year in Austin, then moves to New York, and then finally Boston. These locations all have different accents, so the child in question is going to pick up several different ones and eventually mash them up into a single accent that sounds very different to all three. This is an example of a long-term social change. So then why, in the case of a courtroom, does every human being suddenly have an overwhelming amount of respect for the judge and completely change their behavior?
It’s simple; humans have the capacity to drastically change their behavior and way of thinking based on preconceived notions. The human mind is a powerful thing and if we are able to suddenly change the way we behave just because we entered a courtroom, think of the power we could have in changing our career choices, obtaining happiness, overcoming troublesome situations and adapting to drastic changes in our lives. Entering the courtroom is just a glimpse into the power that our minds possess in changing our lives.
By Brian McKay