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I found this interesting and real story of an argument during a legal deposition about the most absurd thing you could imagine. The video below reenacts verbatim the words of the two parties. The lawyer becomes embroiled with this absurd argument about the definition of a photocopier. After the video I offer a few communication secrets in light of this hilarious case.

The Case: Ohio Supreme Court Case 2010-2029

From the New Article:

In 2010, the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office in Ohio changed their policy about copying records. Digital files would no longer be available, and the public would have to make hard copies of documents for $2 per page. This would prove to be prohibitively expensive for Data Trace Information Services and Property Insight, companies that collect hundreds of pages of this public information each week. They sued the Recorder’s Office for access to digital versions of the documents on a CD. In the middle of the case, a lawyer representing them questioned the IT administrator of the Recorder’s Office, which led to a 10-page argument over the semantics of photocopiers.

Continue reading the main story

The case never went to trial. After two years, many depositions and 600 pages of paperwork, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the Recorder’s Office should make a CD with the documents available to the public. The price? One dollar.

In light of what you just witnessed, here is how the Lawyer could have helped his case:

1. Be specific:

Leaders learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. It is critical leaders learn how to cut to the chase, hit the high points, don't beat around the bush, or say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are not specific you will lose your audience. They will zone out. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.

2. Have an Open Mind:

A leader takes their game to a whole new level the minute they willingly seek out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. I’m always amazed at how many people are truly fearful of opposing views, when what they should be is genuinely curious and interested. Remember that it’s not the opinion that matters, but rather the willingness to discuss it with an open mind and learn.

3. Watch Your Emotions:

Being overly emotionally about a particular issue or topic can cloud your judgement. A leader understands that when we act on our emotions too quickly, or we act on the wrong kinds of emotions, we often make decisions that we later lament. Respond don't React. 

4. Voice Expectations:

A leader takes the time to voice their intentions and expectations. This is the foundation to a good conversation. Once this is established the issue can be discussed with a new openness. I would also argue it allows a new trust to the relationship between the two parties speaking.  

5. Make Clear Objectives:

Leaders keep in mind that for successful interactions to occur, their objective must be in alignment with those you are communicating with. When people are in conflict, they often concentrate more on what they are going to say in response to their opponent's statement, rather than listening to their opponents' words. The result, again, is misunderstandings, and often unnecessary escalation of a conflict.

Communication is hard. Knowing your audience is how you will shape your communication. Switching tactics in your communication with the audience is a skill worth practicing. Sometimes you may not even know the audience until you begin communicating with them. Improvise-Adapt-Overcome.