Holland & Usry November 2017

No Condemnation ver the past few years, I’ve noticed that our society increasingly thrives on condemnation. Facebook, news, and Twitter boil over with it.

No debate can be won by screaming and labeling another person, however wrong, as evil. It truly does no good. Recent studies show injury case juries actually give less when they perceive a victim’s lawyer as too aggressive — even if he’s right. We are quickly becoming a nation who thinks the loudest voice wins. The truth is, you’re just as right when you calmly reason with others, and they’re more likely to listen. One of the best ways to manage a debate was written generations ago, but its principles ring true in the digital age. Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” first appeared in 1936, and it became a legendary self-help book. In 2011, Time magazine ranked it as No. 19 of the 100 most influential books ever written. 1. Welcome disagreement. It may be that you’ve not thought of the other side’s view. 2. Distrust your initial impulse to disagree and retort. You may be wrong. 3. Control your temper. 4. Listen first to build bridges of understanding. 5. Look for areas of agreement. In response, note those areas. 6. Be honest. Admit mistakes and thank the other person for pointing them out. It reduces the other’s need to defend their position. 7. Promise sincerely to consider the other’s points. They may be right. Better to figure that out now than later. 8. Thank them for their interest. Anyone who raises counterpoints shares your interest. Think of them as helpers. 9. Postpone action so both sides can think about it. In the meantime, deeply consider if they’re right, even partly. So, here’s how to handle a debate, distilled from the timeless wisdom of Carnegie’s masterpiece.

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The prevailing attitude seems to be, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me; and if you’re against me, you’re either stupid or evil.” In matters like politics, people invest enormous sums of energy to generate anger to attack foes and demand retribution — and for what? As a young lawyer starting an accident injury practice, I, too, felt the urge to bludgeon my opponents with harsh, angry words for the harm they inflicted on my innocent clients. I soon realized my efforts were misspent and misguided. I learned from a surprising source: my clients.

While my clients bore the wounds and walked the long miles forced upon them by a

careless stranger, they sought no condemnation. Most just wanted bills paid, lost income replaced, and compensation for the suffering and lost time they couldn’t get back. But demonstration of anger toward the defendant? My people generally just don’t have time for that pain. They want a dark chapter closed properly, not a hollering session led by a paid mouthpiece.

Observing my people patiently withstand these wrongs without demanding the proverbial tooth for a tooth made me wiser. For some, their lives have been changed forever through no fault of their own. And yet, they don’t lash out. We shouldn’t lash out, either. I’m not saying we should accept wrongs by any stretch. But we can change the way we respond. Don’t misunderstand: Points must be made. Harmful mistakes must be convincingly proven. Legally, justice must be boldly and earnestly requested. And sometimes that does require judging someone as evil. But that’s pretty rare.

You might be surprised at the results. I look forward to hearing from you on it.

–Rob Usry 864.582.0416

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