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Generational communication: Will it hurt more than a rook piercing?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
posted by Rita Handrich

My daughter was 11 when I agreed to take her to get her ears pierced. She desperately wanted to have it done but was afraid of the pain. So I had my ears pierced with second holes to show her it was survivable. As time has gone on, she’s added to her collection–always in my company. Second ear piercings. A cartilage piercing. And now, in the wake of her 18th birthday, she asked for my company to a tattoo parlor so she could have her rook and tragus pierced. Showing my age, I asked what part of the body these unfamiliar words were located upon and was relieved (and appalled) to discover they were also on the ear.

So off we went. The “piercer” came out to meet us. He was a huge man (think sumo wrestler) with huge hands, and gauges in both nostrils and the biggest gauges I’ve ever seen in each ear. I felt faint. My daughter looked anxious. He turned out to be the nicest guy. And when he picked up the huge needle to pierce her ear, I could have passed out. She turned very pale as the needle went through not once, but twice to pierce the rook. After he got the earring in (with his huge hands and fingers), he asked if she was ready for the tragus piercing. She asked in a small voice, “Will it hurt more than the rook piercing?” He assured her it would not.

I was reminded of a blog post from Dave Munger back in the glory days of Cognitive Daily blog. In this post, Dave’s spouse Greta (co-author of the blog) discovered that the fable of the Fox and the Grapes was unfamiliar to many of her students. Cognitive Daily then did a survey of their readers to see how many were familiar with the origin and meaning of the phrase “sour grapes”. As it turned out, not that many.

It’s a good lesson in generational communication for the courtroom. While we (hopefully) will not hear plaintiffs describe their pain in terms of body piercing, it’s important to consider the examples we use to communicate. As they saw in the Cognitive Daily survey, those survey respondents who were avid readers were more familiar with the meaning and origin of the term “sour grapes”. We need to remember the phase of life of our jurors, as well as how actual ‘reading’ has decreased for many. Movie references, TV show references, book references, even pop culture references become quickly dated and meaningless to your audience.

Pay attention to what you say. Don’t use verbal shortcuts and assume everyone knows what they mean. Your snappy analogy may just fall short.

We saw this recently in a mock trial where the defense attorney was attempting to demonstrate the difference between the disputed technologies as the difference between a record album (which he held up for the mock jurors) and a CD. Same music. Much different technology. Jurors liked the comparison and it made sense for them. But an unanticipated message came through. The attorney displayed a record album by Barry Manilow. Younger jurors saw that choice as reflecting both the attorney’s age and a questionable taste in music. They were unafraid to verbalize this perception directly.

So. Be careful what you unintentionally communicate! You likely won’t have the benefit of direct juror feedback on mistakes you make.

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