The Japanese say you have three faces: the first, you show to the world; the second, you show to your family and friends—and the third, you never show to anyone.
It seems clear that in a lawsuit all witnesses voluntarily permit only their first face to be revealed. The first face is that which is most presentable to others. It’s the face which does not let down its guard. It’s the face which is imperturbable, self-assured, unshakeable. And though the first face is the most unsheltered and exposed, it’s also the most well-protected. Because it’s constantly on display, open to the gaze of others, the first face is that which, by necessity, conceals and hides the most.
The second face allows a window to be gradually opened. It’s the face which permits some degree of trust, of vulnerability. One can speak to family and friends in unique ways, explaining personal concerns and problems, planning the future, sharing dreams. This degree of trust occurs naturally. In these relationships there is no need for craft or guile to any degree since there are no ulterior motives at stake. But the second face, because it’s vulnerable, is revealed only when genuine love and caring exists.
The third face is never spoken of, and for good reason—it can’t be. It holds one’s deepest beliefs, longings, wishes, fears, hurts, and dreams accumulated since childhood. It’s all there in this place—but it’s entirely one’s own. No one else is allowed in, or anywhere near. Psychoanalysis actually attempts to explore this region. But the reason this region is sealed off is because there are things that simply cannot be spoken of to others. They’re inviolate, sacrosanct. And the third face keeps these secrets securely locked away, forever.
Highly experienced lawyers know of these three faces and seek to maintain an awareness of them. And they develop an uncanny ability to tap into the second and perhaps aspects of the third when questioning witnesses. They polish these skills by engaging in a lifelong study of people, honing their instincts, watching and listening closely, and perfecting their tone, pitch, and timing. They have a sixth sense of what makes people tick, and often their hunches are proven correct.
Fathoming the “ruling passion” of an adverse witness is not something that’s readily apparent. Often it’s masked, shrouded in secrecy. But becoming good at reading people is part of a lawyer’s job description, and there are no shortcuts to improving this skill. It’s not something that can be taught in a weekend. But many benefits accrue by developing this special sensitivity to people over a period of many years—not the least of which is gaining a greater degree of understanding, respect, and empathy for people everywhere.