We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ― Epictetus
It was a rainy Saturday morning; breakfast had been prepared, food had been eaten, dog had been walked, cartoons had been watched and we had a 3-hour window before our afternoon plans. Hmmm… how about a movie! Who doesn’t love a movie on a rainy Saturday? I didn’t care what we saw, so I presented the idea to my 8- and 11-year-old children to decide, listing the various movies available. Much to my surprise, what followed was not an excited parade to the car, or happy exclamations about finally getting to see one of the movies they had been talking about. Oh no, no, no… what followed was a lengthy and impassioned debate on the pros and cons of each movie and the great unfairness in the world at the possibility that one child’s movie selection may prevail over the others. Each completely consumed in their soliloquy, not listening to what the other had to say, unwavering in their positions, and totally losing sight of the big picture… You Wanted To See a Movie – It’s For Fun – And Time Is Of The Essence!
As you may have already guessed, in the end, because too much time was spent posturing and arguing about who was right and what was fair, we missed our opportunity. Unfortunately, the scenario above is not uncommon in our industry. All too often, attorneys get drawn into the argument, stop listening, and lose sight of the big picture. However, you can’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ―Winston Churchill
Such a simple concept, when you listen, you learn what you need to know to succeed. You learn what matters to your opponent, to your client, to the judge, (to your significant other, to your friends, to your family). When you don’t listen, you come away with no more than what you started with – the knowledge in your own head. We have no control over others, what they hear, understand or believe… but we do have control over our own actions and can lead by example. Take every opportunity to listen deeply and really hear what matters to your opponents and clients. Not only will you come away with more information than you started with… there’s something to be said for the intangible element of mood when someone feels listened to and understood.
“Compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.” ― Ludwig Erhard
As I witnessed firsthand in the Great Movie Debate of 2017, discussed above, a surefire way to prolong the debate and not reach a speedy resolution on an issue is to point the finger at the faults of your opponent. Yes, of course there is a time and a place to point out the shortcomings and weaknesses in your opponent’s case, but when resolving an issue or reaching a compromise is the goal, what you don’t say is often more important than what you do. Listening, respecting you opponent’s position and looking for common ground on which to build your dialogue will always serve you well. Compromise works well when you have shared goals. Inquire, listen, find out what those goals are and you are half way there.
“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” ―Henry Ford
Giving back: Eli Home
Each year, the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association selects a charity as the recipient of the proceeds raised during our annual Top Gun Awards. This year’s charity, The Eli Home, is a safe harbor for abused women and children in Orange County. We can make a difference this year by helping Eli Home secure the financial resources it needs to continue its mission to restore safety and hope to the lives of women and children.
Top Gun December 2
OCTLA will be holding our Silent Auction at the TOP GUN Attorney of the Year Gala & Awards Program on December 2, 2017, in Newport Beach. All proceeds of the silent and live auctions will benefit The Eli Home.
“We make a living by what we get We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill
Shaina Colover is 2017 President of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association and practices personal injury law with her dad at The Law Offices of Ronald B. Schwartz, upstairs from Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach. She serves on the CAOC Diversity Committee and is former chair of the OCBA and OCTLA education committees.
Copyright © 2019 by the author.
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