Apr 15, 2015 More on engaging and being relaxed, open, fearless, and non-judgmental, whether an extrovert or introvert
In 1977 and again in 1978, I met my jazz trumpeter hero Dizzy Gillespie. I was fourteen at our first meeting, and he was forty-five years older. Both times, he seemed distant at best with me. On our first meeting, I shook his hand after his nightclub quintet performance that blows me away to this day, after telling him how great was the performance. My brother and I got a bonus when one of his band members let us help load up their equipment on their van to wherever they were next going after Westport, Connecticut.
The second time was fourteen months later when Dizzy was taking a break from practicing with his big band at the annual outdoor Nice, France, jazz festival. I asked if I could get a picture with him, and he humorously, or ominously, responded "As long as you don’t charge me for it." The resulting picture did not show him being jolly about my photographic request.
Both times, I saw Dizzy being jolly with others, with a woman at the jazz club and with his fellow musician Mary Lou Williams that same afternoon in Nice.
A person’s openness or not with another depends on many dynamics involving the two people and factors outside themselves. I suppose I came across both times to Dizzy as a fan wanting a piece of him rather than as someone caring about Dizzy and wanting simply to express true gratitude. The woman Dizzy beamed at in the jazz club had truly connected with him. Mary Lou Williams had already been his good friend for decades.
Although disappointed both times at Dizzy’s seeming distance when I approached him, I ultimately recognized that I need to start by looking inward about people’s reactions to me, and that Dizzy owed his audiences nothing more than the performance they had paid to hear.
I was wowed experiencing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at two Lakers home games in the early 1980’s. Possibly because I rarely viewed sports in the news or on television, little did I know at the time that he was very much an introvert at the time. Jabbar said two years ago: "My shyness and introversion from those days still haunt me. Fans felt offended, reporters insulted. That was never my intention.”
Magic Johnson was also very introverted when he started with the Lakers. I would not have known that Johnson had been an introvert, when seeing him waving back in a friendly way to fans as he crossed a busy downtown Washington, D.C., street around two years ago. By the late 1980’s Magic Johnson said Kareem had become much more approachable.
Depending on the time and place and who is interacting with me, I suppose many people will say I keep to myself a lot, and others will say I am very friendly, open, and talkative. The two can be reconciled. Sure, I love being in public defending my clients and spreading the word of justice in court, news interviews, and everywhere else. I love getting to know and work with my clients and many others. I love spending time and growing with my wife and son. However, at a cocktail party, I am not particularly interested in pumping hands for pumping hands’ sake, nor in standing around being bored by someone rather than exiting purportedly to refresh my food plate or drink or to head to the restroom. I do not rush to join such so-called "traditional" lawyers’ social events as attending professional sporting events, cocktail parties, and dances, not only because those things are not usually my personal cup of tea, but also because I do not thrive on joining the crowd, particularly when the event is about conformity rather than another opportunity to learn and discuss how to help our clients and to make the criminal justice system more just and society a better place.
Many successful people in history are very introverted. Everything needs to be about good balance.
Critical to persuading others is engaging everyone on all sides, and being relaxed, open, fearless and non-judgmental. Being non-judgmental does not mean abdicating critical analysis. It means not alienating others by judging them. For instance, I have watched videotapes where police, sadly, get suspects to wag their tongues, simply by the police being fully present with and listening to the suspect, withholding all judgmental words and gestures.
Recently, I was driving up to a parking garage, and a large pickup truck was parked twenty yards from the garage entrance over the center line, so that he was slowing traffic too much and unnecessarily. I gave into my knee-jerk reaction so late at night to stop alongside him and ask: "Is it necessary for you to be blocking traffic like this?" Without missing a beat, he replied: "Is it necessary for you to be talking to me?" I knee-jerked back: "Fine. I will report you." Although he soon left, I certainly would have accomplished more by instead saying something along the lines of: "How are you doing?” [After he responds:] “I wasn’t sure if you know that your truck’s position is making it hard safely to drive around you. if you could make some more room for the other drivers." In the first instance, I was just judging and reacting. In my latter substitute approach, I would have been relaxed and more open to this driver, non-judgmental, and offering him a way to save face. Or I could have said nothing, not in order to surrender, but because we need to choose each day where to focus our energy, and to act rather than react.
Along the way, here are some other things I have written about being open, compassionate, engaging, relaxed, and fearless:
Kindness to all is persuasive strength, not weakness.
Being fearless of death and injury makes one more powerful
Persuading and not fearing judges, by seeing them as just one of us.
Beware turning your back on prosecutors and wrestling opponents. Don’t be paranoid, either.
Engaging with clients in the place where they are, even if on a roller coaster.