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11/15/2013

Communication Lessons from the Bench

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Guest Post from Bob Woolf

While in St. Louis recently, I had the pleasure of watching my son represent the plaintiff in a court trial. I frankly wanted to see him in action in order to see where the bucks went that funded the degree! He was presenting the closing argument and I noticed that the jury members were engaged, with some of them even at the edge of their seat.

He appealed for “common sense” and fairness for his clients. He slammed his hand on the wall fronting the jury box and implored, “These folks don’t want to get rich in a settlement, they just want their damaged wall repaired.” He connected with the jury members. He personalized the message with sufficiently dramatic body language and vocal variations that were far from mundane or dull. His content was excellent, his presentation was exciting, and an emotional interaction was made. They were listening to him. They were “feeling his client’s pain."

What was the result of the trial? His clients were awarded everything. In short, he hit a legal “homerun” and I was there to watch it. Pretty cool if I must say so.

On the trip back to Nashville, I couldn’t help but think of the lessons taught. Whether talking with students, contractors, team members, negotiatiors, or with a jury, the key to successful communication is being able to communicate successfully. A paradox? No. One of the definitions of communicate is “connect.” We must be able to make that prized “connection.”  And to do that we need to be honest, to be genuine.

I believe the case could easily have been decided in favor of the insurance company who denied the claim. Some members of the jury explained their decision, indicating that the opposing attorney seemed to be aloof while my son spoke with them, not at them. In short, one attorney made that all important connection while the other did not. In the long run, the content of their presentations were not as important as faith in the presenter. They trusted my son and heard the message.  They were left unimpressed by the opposing attorney.

Is it not the same situation when we are making a presentation, facilitating a meeting, addressing our client, supervising a team, or teaching a class?  We must communicate with appropriate words and sincere body language.  How do we do that?  By understanding your audience, listening first, and being honest and genuine. That is the secret of good communication. Show me a person who listens first and then speaks to the concerns just heard, and I will show you a successful communicator.


 
 


 

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