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Tribute to Carole Grau

There is such a thing as the “International Listening Association.” It’s a wonderfully diverse group of people from different professions, academic disciplines, and cultures. One of its founders was Carole Grau, who passed away last week.

I had the pleasure of attending the ILA’s annual conference in 2017, where I met Carole and her daughter, Jennie Grau, key members of Grau Interpersonal Communication. Jennie and I were working on a CLE event with Anita Dorczak, but we had a bit of time away from preparing to sit down with Carole. Her presence was striking: an unmistakable intellect and a lifetime of wisdom, but at the same time humble, curious, and patient. In short, she was everything a great listener should be.

Carole wore many hats, including professor, consultant, speaker, and coach. She was not a lawyer but was a trained mediator with deep theoretical expertise and practical experience in conflict resolution. Also, as Jennie told me, the Grau household has a number of lawyers so their family discussions often took on a lawyerly flavor. In the short time I was able to spend with Carole, it was apparent she could handle just about any situation—personal or professional—with honesty and assertiveness. She had been struggling with serious health problem for years; despite her health challenges, she was clearly delighted to be among friends at the ILA conference, listening and in turn being listened to. When Carole spoke at that conference, everyone did really listen, showing a palpable respect and reverence for her wisdom gathered in a career spanning 50 years.

I was so sorry to hear of Carole’s passing. Working with her daughter Jennie was a highlight of 2017, and seeing the loving bond among Carole and her family was an inspiration. My hugs and condolences go out to the Grau family at this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CollaborationFact investigationGenderTrial advocacyUncategorized

You should watch The People v. O.J. Simpson

To echo what many have said, I now know what I’ll be doing for the next ten Tuesday nights. The People v. O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story (FX Networks) is as incredible as everyone is saying. For viewers who lived through the spectacle, it brings back memories (“Where was I the night of the white-Bronco chase?”) and forces connections (an even closer look at the Kardashian family, which didn’t seem possible). More broadly and as the New York Times has pointed out, the opening scenes of the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots (mediated through TV news) set the stage not just for the investigation and “Trial of the [20th] Century” but for connections to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement today.

The People v. O.J. Simpson is also a story about lawyers and lawyering, with a deeper view than anyone got in real-time, drawing from Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson (interview with Toobin here).

There’s the distracted Marcia Clark cradling a landline and feeding cereal to her cute but ungrateful kids while she learns about the murders. (Actor Sarah Paulson told the Wall Street Journal: “I didn’t understand what I do now—that it was a great failure of women everywhere to not have come out rallying behind her in what was a real assault on her by the media.”) There’s Robert Shapiro holding court about his greatness in a posh restaurant when he’s interrupted to take O.J.’s call. There’s Robert Kardashian patting his friend O.J.’s shoulder, his eyes widening perhaps just a bit when Shapiro suggests that he reactivate his law license and join O.J.’s defense team. There’s Christopher Darden in an unguarded moment with Johnnie Cochran before either of them knows what is about to hit.

During the first episode, I tried to watch with an eye toward blogging something about listening. The most obvious scene was Shapiro’s show of meeting alone with O.J. to ask him if he did it. O.J. looks him back in the eye and says, “No. I loved my wife.” The police demonstrated some really poor listening and questioning skills in their early taped interview with him, sending Marcia Clark into paroxysm and foreshadowing trouble for the prosecution. (Later listening to the tape, an officer notes how hard it is to question a famous guy like The Juice.) Yet there’s the initially positive and collaborative environment within the prosecutors’ legal team, fueled by confidence at the story they perceived to be coming together.

By the end of the episode, however, I turned off the analytical brain and just watched. Even now, it was too much. How did this all happen? I couldn’t parse it objectively from a distance. And I guess that’s the problem and one of the show’s essential points.

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Best of 2015

This post is a rather unscientific summary of some of the best articles and posts related to lawyers, law practice, and listening in 2015. Please feel free to comment on other sources you think should be considered among the best of 2015.

General article of the year

How People with Type A Personalities Can Become Better Listeners

Type A personality patterns include competitiveness, urgency, and hostility. For type A people, “the listening struggle is real.” This article offers a few techniques for compensating such as practicing the “WOA” method: Wait. Observe. Allow. It’s amazing what one can learn by patiently waiting and letting the person finish his or her thought.

Study of the year

Take a paragraph. Have one test group read the paragraph out loud to a listening audience. Have another test group hand over the paragraph in writing so the audience reads the exact same text. These two audiences will rank the speaker as more intelligent than the writer, even though the text is exactly the same. The study, conducted by business-school professors at the University of Chicago, found this result to be true across several different conditions. Even when a text is written to be read rather than spoken, audiences who hear it still rank the speaker more highly than audiences who rank the author after reading it.

It is thought that “vocal cues” provide more signals of intellect than are available in the reading experience. As one study author summed up,  “If you read aloud my written pitch, you’d sound smarter than my written pitch.” The study was described in the New York Times here, “The Mouth Is Mightier than the Pen.” The study is available here, with a subscription to Sage Publications: http://pss.sagepub.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/cgi/content/long/26/6/877 (subscription required)

Law review article of the year

A theme of this blog has been that it’s difficult to measure listening and even more difficult for any person to accurately judge just how good—or bad—a listener they are.* Professor Andrea Curcio of Georgia State wrote about how hard it is to accurately judge one’s own cultural sensibility as well, due to a variety of cognitive biases. A culturally sensible lawyer is a lawyer “who understand[s] that we all have multifaceted cultural backgrounds, experiences, and biases that affect how we perceive and analyze legal problems and how we interact with clients and colleagues.” Curcio’s article discusses cultural sensibility, barriers to developing it, and methods law schools/classes may consider to foster it. Being not just theoretically knowledgeable but actually skilled at cultural sensibility leads to more effective listening, which is why this article is LLL’s law review article of the year. The citation and link are here:  Andrea Curcio, Addressing Barriers to Cultural Sensibility Learning: Lessons from Social Cognition Theory, 15 Nev. L. J. 537 (2015).

Book of the year (reviewed on the blog)

Heidi Grant Halvorson, No One Understands You and What To Do About It, reviewed here. This book is short and insightful for analyzing different aspects of communication situations through the lenses of trust, ego, and power. The book explores ways to make a more accurate, less distorted impression and perhaps even recover from having made a bad impression.

Book of the year (still to be reviewed)

Another book of the year, not yet reviewed on this blog is Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2015). The New York Times (and specifically, Jonathan Franzen) reviewed it here. He sums up the book as a “call to arms”:

Our rapturous submission to digital technology has led to an atrophying of human capacities like empathy and self-­reflection, and the time has come to reassert ourselves, behave like adults and put technology in its place.

Tweet of the year

This is from the Clio Cloud Conference in the keynote by John Suh, CEO of Legal Zoom:

 

Word of the year

Manterrupting

Pam Woldow and Doug Richardson wrote a great series on “manterruption” at Pam’s website At the Intersection: Where General Counsel & Law Firms Connect. They wrote about this issue in three parts:

Part 1: Are You a Manterrupter?

Part 2: The Quest for a Cure 

Part 3: Reader Responses and Connecting the Dots

Not surprisingly, some of the feedback they received included helpful thoughts such as “Stick to your knitting.” Some of the other feedback was actually constructive and hopeful.

Runner up for word of the year

Deipnosophist: “a person skilled in table talk”

Hat tip to @LibrarySherpa:

  

Futuristic thought of the year

Ken Grady of Seytlines argues for process improvement and technological innovation in the legal industry, while also maintaining that soft skills have never been more important. In a September post on measuring lawyer performance, he touched on the possibility of wearable sociometric devices that will quantify social skills and effectiveness—essentially, as Ken said, a “FitBit for listening.” Such devices can already measure “proximity to other employees, who was talking, engagement levels, and other data points.” Such data can be interpreted to “determine which group dynamics led to more creativity or productivity.” (Seyfarth CEO Stephen Poor more broadly explored the idea of FitBits for lawyers as well.)

Thus, perhaps by 2016 or 2017 one of the “best of” posts here will include someone’s experience using a sociometric device to assess their actual listening skills.

*(By 2017 “their” as a pronoun for “someone” and “a person” will be widely accepted as well, but that is a different post for a different day on a different blog.)

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“Develop-in-place” for listening

This post is for people who don’t mind reading a bit of jargon from the world of training and professional development. It’s all about how we define effective listening and how lawyers can develop it on the job, with some implications for legal education as well.

The term “competency” is a term of art in educational and professional parlance. I like this definition: “measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors [that are] critical to successful job performance.” 

Listening is very difficult to observe and to measure. Listening is hard even to define. Professor Neil Hamilton recognized these difficulties in his foundational law-review article on listening, Effectiveness Requires Listening: How to Assess and Improve Listening Skills:

One challenge in integrating a focus on improving listening

skills into the traditional law school curriculum, particularly the required

curriculum, is that it can be difficult to ascertain what “listening

skills” are. A failure to break down competence in a skill into component

parts can create confusion both for teachers, who need clear objectives

and assessment tools, and students, who need clear direction, thus

making it more difficult to integrate the skills into a curriculum.

Listening has received a variety of definitions from communication scholars, culminating in this from the International Listening Association: “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages”

This definition underscores the problem with measuring listening. How do you measure whether a person is “receiving” messages, much less “constructing meaning” from them? Responding is much easier to observe and assess. (Yet another reason “active listening” gets so much love; you really can know it when you see it because by definition it involves an observable behavior.)

But just because measuring listening—all its aspects—is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. An example worth studying comes from the Microsoft in Education program, which has undertaken the task of stating a broad range of Education Competencies for Teachers and School Leaders, including Listening Competences. (Also here are some on interpersonal skills.) The rest of this post focuses on these particular “Listening Competencies” and what lawyers might draw from some of their substance as well as the framework used to present them.

Tiers of listening from basic to expert

The Listening Competencies document begins with a rubric classifying listening skills into four tiers:

  • basic
  • intermediate
  • advanced
  • expert

An example of a basic listening skill is being attentive, and an expert listening skill is “making solid eye contact, intuitively absorbing the gist of the message.” A basic listening skill is being considerate of the opinions of others, and an expert skill is being able to accurately restate the opinions of others even when you disagree with them.

So this type of rubric is far from revolutionary but harder than it looks to develop. In the legal field, what do we consider basic and expert listening, and gradations of intermediate and advanced listening in between? The educators’ competencies do not adequately speak to the complex and contested situations lawyers find themselves dealing with; they would need to be developed and tailored significantly to describe the skills required by lawyers functioning in the real world and law students doing real-world experiential work.

There is a growing body of work in the area of articulating lawyering competencies, intensified by many factors such as the push for law schools to produce practice-ready graduates. The new book Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World by Lisa Bliss et al. is an example of a very recent contribution. Listen Like a Lawyer will keep exploring the research, as well as talking to a variety of lawyers and law professors in order to revisit this question over the summer.

Develop-in-place assignments

In addition to the skill tiers, the Listening Competencies document also raised the idea of “part-time develop-in-place assignments.” This was not a term I had heard before, but the idea of a “develop-in-place assignment” seemed intriguing. Lawyers may prefer training opportunities that are more customized and active, with less loss of productivity than something like attending an all-day CLE.

So what does “develop-in-place” mean? From context, we know it is more than remedial training. For remedial needs, the Listening Competencies document has a separate section for “self-development remedies.” They include gems such as “keep your mouth closed” and “eliminate . . . . pencil drumming.” (There are more difficult items on the remediation list as well, such as “[l]isten to those who waste a lot of time, but try to help them.” How is that remedial?)

After the remedial section, the Listening Competencies document goes on to list ideas for “develop-in-place assignments.” The common thread is practical, hand-on training opportunities. They exist somewhere in between remedial and highly advanced. A few examples in the list include finding and learning from an expert; going to campus as a recruiter; and becoming someone’s mentor. The list also suggested making peace with an enemy or other person “you have disappointed, had trouble with, or don’t get along with.” The list also suggested going on a trip to a foreign country. (Yes, that would be a pretty awesome way to develop competencies! Sign me up for that one, please.)

The term “develop-in-place” appears not to be widely used beyond the Microsoft in Education competencies, but its basic meaning is confirmed by some excellent training materials from the Korn/Ferry training organization:

Develop-in-Place Assignments are job tasks that require application of certain competencies. Research shows that 70% of development happens on the job, and jobs differ in development power and in the competencies they address. You can’t always change jobs for development reasons alone, but there is almost always a develop-in-place assignment that you can select in your current job to address your development need.

This definition should appeal to lawyers in that it’s about doing an actual job task that also happens to develop skills or competencies—in other words, learning by doing. The idea that “there is almost always a develop-in-place assignment . . . in your current job” may ring true for many practicing lawyers. For example, new lawyers doing a lot of writing and research may seek out pro bono opportunities to work with clients more personally. (This isn’t a simple matter, and pro-bono work should be more than an opportunistic skill grab. But done correctly, it is a way to serve clients and the public and apply lawyering competencies.) Similarly, lawyers who work on a lot of individual, fact-intensive matters may seek time to write an article taking a broader perspective.

Expert lawyering requires so many different competencies, with listening being just one aspect of a broad picture combining intellectual, interpersonal, more broadly social, and practical skill sets. Marjorie Shultz and Sheldon Zedeck may have the definitive set in their list of 26 lawyering effectiveness factors. Given this eclectic mix and the value of learning by doing, this concept of “develop-in-place assignments” seems like a pretty good idea for professional development.

Please share your thoughts on listening competencies for lawyers, and ways that lawyers could use “develop-in-place” assignments to practice and improve their listening skills.

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Innovating the 2L and 3L years

How is listening taught in law school—if it is taught at all? Some wonderful work is being done, especially in the clinics. But even the strongest and most effective approach to listening typically found in legal education today seems to be based in individual courses. It seems possible that a given law student could graduate from a typical U.S. law school without working on listening skills at all.

That’s not the case in an innovative program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law that re-envisions the 2L and 3L years. A new report by Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, an initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, describes the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program. Twenty-four students are selected at the end of their first year of law school to participate over the next two years. These students attend a careful sequence of subject-matter and skills classes. They receive frequent feedback (formative assessment) and must assess their own progress through a variety of reflection assignments. Upon successful completion of the program, students are admitted to the New Hampshire Bar without taking the regular bar exam, a fact touted in the New York Times’ recent article on bar-exam critics.

Listening plays an explicit role at the beginning, middle, and end of the Webster program.

The beginning: Getting admitted to the program

First, students are actually selected for the Webster program in part based on their communication skills. The report notes that during the program’s first year in 2005, student selection was based in large part on prior academic achievement. Now, selection is based on personal interviews with the selection committee and the committee’s assessment of a broader set of criteria. The criteria are grouped into four main categories: professional relationships, professional development, personal responsibility, and academic competence. A number of criteria in the professional relationships category relate to listening:

  • Have integrity and engage in honest discourse
  • Treat themselves and others with respect
  • Work well with others, acknowledging their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Show empathy and kindness to others
  • Listen attentively—know when to listen and when to contribute
  • Have humility—admit to mistakes and make apologies

And several criteria related to professional responsibility relate to listening as well:

  • Seek—and learn from—feedback
  • Are open to new ideas, seeing things from others’ perspectives, and sharing their views

The middle: Sequence of classes

Students in the Webster program proceed through a preset sequence of classes. Working with simulated clients appears to be required every semester. For example the first semester of the 2L year requires pretrial advocacy. The report provides benchmarks for that course. Some benchmarks address listening in the classroom: whether the student “actively and respectfully listens to peers and professor” and makes relevant comments that reflect, inter alia, insight about other students’ previous comments. Other benchmarks address performance on the skills such as taking a deposition (whether the student asks clear questions and uses effective body language and eye contact) and giving an oral argument (whether the student gives responsive answers to the judge’s questions and again uses effective body language and eye contact).

The end: Capstone class and standardized client interview

The Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Report is so enthusiastic about this program because graduating students in the program outperform new lawyers at least as measured on their client interviewing skills. The capstone class involves a “standardized client interview” in which students are assessed by the trained actor who plays the client. The assessment has two parts: (1) interpersonal and professional interaction such as whether the student listened to the client; and (2) skill at asking questions to glean specific facts necessary for the client representation. Appendix B to the Report contains the assessment form filled out by the trained actors/standardized client. It contains a number of questions regarding the lawyer’s demeanor and ability to gain trust and glean the correct information.

Question 2 on that assessment hits listening about as hard as you can hit it, with 1 representing “strongly disagree” and 5 representing “strongly agree”:

I felt the lawyer listened to me.

1            2           3           4           5

The students who completed this program, regardless of their LSAT scores and other entering credentials, outperformed lawyers with 1-2 years of experience who also completed a standardized client interview. They received higher scores (statistically significantly higher) on the criteria of their professional communication skills such as listening and building trust. They received significantly higher scores on their ability to glean the relevant information from the client.

The Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Report proclaims that these students are more ready to “hit the ground running” as a result of the program. The Report does, however, acknowledge obstacles to implementing such a program on a broader scale outside the context of the close-knit New Hampshire legal community. The Report suggests that the Webster program’s innovations could be unbundled and implemented in a more modular fashion, on a smaller scale. The key elements to preserve would be “the combination of formative and reflective assessment in a practice-based context and a focus on collaboration between the academy and the profession.”


A previous post about another initiative of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers can be found here.

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Best of 2014: LLL’s Favorite Tweets & Links on Listening and Lawyering

Listening theories. Listening techniques. Body language. Distraction. Music. Hearing impairment. Client development. Client service. Law-firm management. Collaboration. Cognitive styles. Creativity.

Courtesy Flickr/Brad K.

Courtesy Flickr/Brad K.

Asking questions. Mindfulness. Job satisfaction. Emotional intelligence. Psychology. Learning theories and myths. 

Listen Like a Lawyer has a pretty awesome Twitter feed collecting fantastic links on these listening-related topics and more. As an end-of-year review, this post collects one notable link from each month, and some honorable mentions at the end. If you want to share your favorite link about listening, please post in the comments.

January

Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, The Multitasking Mess, Attorney at Work: http://www.attorneyatwork.com/the-multitasking-mess/

February

Gerry Riskin, Seven Keys to Retaining Your Clients, Amazing Firms; Amazing Practices http://www.gerryriskin.com/seven-keys-to-retaining-your-clients/

March

Adam Pasick, The Complete Guide to Listening to Music at Work, Quartz http://qz.com/185337/the-complete-guide-to-listening-to-music-at-work/

April

Art Markman, How to Figure Out What You’re Not Being Told, Fast Company http://www.fastcompany.com/3027793/work-smart/how-to-figure-out-what-youre-not-being-told

May

Wells H. Anderson & Seth G. Rowland, How to Choose the Right Tools for Any Client Communications, ABA GP Solo: Law Practice 2020 http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014/may_june/how_choose_right_tools_any_client_communication.html

June

Judith E. Glaser & Richard D. Glaser, The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations, Harvard Business Review Blog https://hbr.org/2014/06/the-neurochemistry-of-positive-conversations/

July

Josh Beser, 5 Ways to Follow Up Effectively (With Real-World Examples), JD Supra Business Advisor http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/5-ways-to-follow-up-effectively-with-re-98088/

August

Anne Collier, Style Matters: How Cognitive Diversity Affects Your Work, ABA Law Practice Today http://www.lawpracticetoday.org/article/style-matters-cognitive-diversity-affects-work/

September

Gregory Ciotti, Critique v. Criticize: The Lost Art of Candor in the Workplace, The Next Web http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2014/09/08/critique-vs-criticize-lost-art-candor-workplace/

October

Jeanne R. Lee, Making It Rain–Practical Tips from Those Who Do: Annita Menogan, ABA Women Rainmakers http://www.lawpracticetoday.org/article/rainmaking-practical-tips/

November

Scott Eblin, How to Pull Yourself Back from the Brink of Your Caffeine-Driven, Smartphone-Addicted Life, Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2014/11/how_to_pull_yourself_back_from.html

December

Allison C. Shields, Use the Spirit of the Holiday Season to Improve Your Networking, Slaw: Canada’s Online Legal Magazine http://www.slaw.ca/2014/12/01/use-the-spirit-of-the-holiday-season-to-improve-your-networking/

Honorable Mentions:

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How to deal with the impaired lawyer examined in @AZStateBar @azbarcle Friday 12/12

Lawyers need to be open to the signs that colleagues and friends in the profession may be struggling with substance abuse and/or mental-health issues. On that note, this looks like a helpful and important CLE. And for those not in Arizona (myself included), this post contains some helpful linked resources as well.

AZ Attorney

stress-word-blur-cloud

Law practice is a stress-prone profession. We know this through research and experience. But what can be done when we—or our colleagues—are responding to the stress in damaging ways?

As much as we might like to see stress in law practice simply evaporate, that is unlikely to happen. And it is stress and its multiple outcomes that make a State Bar seminar this Friday worth considering.

The title is “Protecting Your Practice: Ethically Dealing with the Impaired Lawyer,” and you can get more information (and register) here. As you’ll see, the panel of experts will examine how you can address—and maybe help—a colleague who is exhibiting warning signs of impairment.

The seminar will be held on this Friday morning, December 12. Because you’re likely busy, I’ll lighten your stress level by copying in here the seminar description:

“With the demands and stresses of the profession increasing…

View original post 285 more words

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Review of Stone and Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback

Doug Stone and Sheila Heen co-wrote what is now a business classic, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (2010). Their new book explores the challenges of one of the most difficult kinds of conversation — feedback. The title and subtitle of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (2014) signal their thesis: in these conversations, “the key player is not the giver, but the receiver.” 

Lawyers may benefit particularly from this book’s wisdom, given situations in law practice involving the lack of feedback, poorly delivered feedback, and the dire consequences of certain feedback. One difficulty was summed up by Dennis Kennedy’s advice for new lawyers in the ABA’s Law Practice Today:

Many attorneys will say nothing about your work and continue to give you more and more work. To you, this can be frustrating. In their minds, they have given you the highest form of feedback. “If I didn’t like the work, I wouldn’t give them more.” They don’t realize that most of us need to hear the words.

And likewise, Kennedy points out, some generic feedback may hide quite negative thoughts:

A hearty “great job” and no specific comments may disguise the fact someone can’t believe what a poor job you did and just wants to get you moved on to someone else.

So, for the feedback receiver, the first key to getting more out of feedback is recognizing it is everywhere; Stone and Heen define it to include “any information you get about yourself.” And since feedback is everywhere, we can guarantee that not every source of feedback will be skilled or thoughtful. People who want to be more effective can do so by focusing on the part of the feedback transaction they can control: how they receive it and what they do with it. I love this point for lawyers.

Several frameworks can help feedback receivers to do more with what they are receiving. The first is to understand the types of feedback:

  • appreciation: knowing that others are noticing what you’re doing, and grateful for it
  • coaching: understanding direction to grow and change in an area of skill or in a relationship
  • evaluation: being rated or ranked, perhaps comparatively, and learning about future decisions based on rank

Some of the problems with feedback arise when the receiver just wants appreciation but receives detailed coaching, or wants a clear evaluation but receives vague appreciation (and so on). That’s what Dennis Kennedy was talking about with the “hearty great job” that disguises real dissatisfaction. I have also seen a confusion with coaching and evaluation, when an attorney receives a draft motion and marks it up extensively. For some attorneys, they aren’t criticizing the drafter but just using the first draft as a tool to recognize what they really want to do. This is coaching. But for other attorneys, having to mark up anything carries with an implicit judgment/evaluation of the drafter’s skills. Understanding the differences in types of feedback and clarifying expectations in a feedback situation can make conversations more productive.

The second important framework Stone and Heen outline is three categories of “triggers” — as in emotional triggers — that block feedback:

  • Truth triggers arise when the feedback receiver thinks “that’s wrong”; “that’s not helpful”; or “that’s not me.”
  • Relationship triggers arise when the feedback receiver feels unappreciated, does not respect the feedback giver, or blames the giver.
  • Identity triggers arise when the feedback receiver takes the feedback personally, feels helpless, and starts to question everything.

And with these frameworks in mind, Stone and Heen then suggest various process-based approaches for effectively receiving feedback. There is really too much good material to describe here even at a very high level.

One point important point is the “mindset” work led by Carol Dweck at Stanford. If you believe people’s skills are fundamentally fixed and feedback merely reveals what their skills are, then you have a fixed mindset. If you believe people can develop their skills over time and feedback can help with that, you have a growth mindset. This is an incredibly important distinction for professional growth, such that the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession has an entire “GRIT Project” devoted to this concept. Professor William Henderson also wrote a great article about whether great lawyers are born or made. (For in-depth articles focusing on legal education, see articles by Sarah Adams-Schoen and Carrie Sperling. These are just two examples of a lot of great work in this area.)

At times Stone and Heen’s book focuses on listening specifically:

Advice about listening is white noise. It’s so common and so boring that we no longer even hearing. But if you’re drifting off, this would be a good time to wake up. Listening may be the most challenging skill involved in receiving feedback, but it also has the biggest payoff.

Part of the challenge with listening is the competing “inner voice” that drowns out external information. Stone and Heen advise listening for specific information and cultivating a sense of curiosity that can help to tamp down some of the inner voice’s resistance.

Another challenge with listening is the difficulty of doing it really well. Stone and Heen point out that great listeners are able to recognize not just what is being said substantively but also what is happening with the process of the conversation. Here’s one of their examples of managing process within a team:

Okay, we’re deadlocked. We both need to agree on this, and we don’t. Your solution is that I should give in. As a process, that doesn’t feel fair to me. On the other hand, I don’t know how to break this deadlock, so we’ve got to figure it out. What’s a fair and efficient way to decide when we don’t agree?

There is a whole lot more really valuable information in Thanks for the Feedback. Much of it is general information useful for any professional or personal setting. But among their many gigs, Stone and Heen teach negotiations at Harvard Law School; thus, they include several good law-related examples in the book. For anyone who gives or gets feedback, I really recommend this book.

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“I listen to what you say, but I hear what you mean” — and more Free CLE.

Who can resist a good Hercule Poirot line, especially when it comes to listening?

Here’s another good one in the spirit of brutal honesty: “Mr. Ratchett, I have made enough money to satisfy both my needs and my caprices. I take only such cases now as interest me, and to be frank, my interest in your case is, uh… dwindling.”

The Irreverent Lawyer

And so I found myself pondering the quote, “I listen to what you say, but I hear what you mean.” It was attributed to Agatha Christie’s famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, as played by actor David Suchet.

But it wasn’t until late last night that I came across the thought-provoker. Monday had caught up with me before I was ready to let go of Sunday.

That’s why I hadn’t yet finished reading Sunday’s NY TimesMagazine and particularly Hope Reeves’ interview with Suchet, Part of Me Died With Him containing the quote. Suchet, who played Poirot in the BBCshow, says Poirot made him “a better listener.”

Were it only so that we listened with Poirot’s discernment. More often’s the case that people don’t listen to what you say — and hear only what they mean. Or as the late Steven Covey perceptively proclaimed, “Most people…

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Too Early to Say that the Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard

Here’s a thoughtful post urging caution in the debate over laptop vs. handwritten notes. Note-taking provides important (although not perfect) evidence of listening, and thus this discussion is pretty important to Listen Like a Lawyer.

eddoctorinhouse

Recently there was an article that captured the attention of the popular press and those who teach. A few months ago, The Atlantic trumpeted, “To Remember a Lecture Better Take Notes by Hand .” Scientific American also got into the act with the article “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with Your Laptop”.  Even the research article upon which these news reports were based had a catchy title, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: The Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Notetaking.”   Soon education listserves began to advocate banning the laptop from the classroom. What’s not to like about this finding that fits into our sneaking suspicions about the digital devices?  There is much to admire about the Mueller and Oppenheimer (23 April 2014) study that found handwritten notes were superior to laptop notes; it’s a tightly constructed study. Based on the Mueller article, should educators be telling…

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