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Persuasion should not be akin to filling uncomfortable phone silences

Apr 06, 2009 Persuasion should not be akin to filling uncomfortable phone silences

 

The Chinese script for the character "mu," which means nothing.

Recently, a prosecutor — not too many years out of law school, for whatever that is worth — kept talking and talking and repeating and repeating to the judge during a bench trial. The judge was patient about it, but not all judges or juries will be.

I have seen many criminal defense lawyers do the same, even ones who are very experienced and otherwise very good. It can happen to any of us, and has happened to me, although I catch myself more at the outset now.

My public school music teacher Mike Varga taught of silence being as important as sound, and the importance of holding the note and the silence long enough for it to have effect. Similarly, an artist’s canvas does not require filling in all the blank spaces. In t’ai chi, we learn the power of emptying the mind rather than cluttering it. In court, if the advocate gives too much clutter in talking to judges and juries, and in examining witnesses, the listeners’ heads will be more cluttered and even annoyed or otherwise detrimentally uncomfortable, rather than clarified.

Haikus held little interest for me for decades. However, now they point out the benefit of economy of words.

I have written here about the power of economy of words, and here about the power of blank spaces. Jon Katz

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