Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Keeping Tact ... Intact
I’m delighted to return to PrawfsBlawg. During this month’s visit, I plan to focus on topics that are included in my second book, Advocacy to Zealousness: Learning Lawyering Skills from Classic Films (Carolina Academic Press, 2012). I thought I’d start with something about the skill of tact, and how its presence or absence impacts the teaching, study, and practice of law. In the not-too-distant past, when communication methods were limited to in-person meetings, telephone calls, and written correspondence, there were still myriad minefields to maneuver around to avoid the commission of communication faux pas. Rude or terse statements (made intentionally or unintentionally) could lead to hurt feelings or heated arguments, but, absent national print or television coverage, the unfortunate words and misunderstandings were limited to condensed areas, and relationships could be mended much quicker. Today, words can spread around the world in a split second, and private resolutions are harder to come by. What we say, and how we say it, has permanence, presence, and persistence. And, sadly, the least tactful statements tend to last the longest. It’s this new sense of permanence of words and statements that makes it crucial to learn to exercise great care in their use and delivery. Law professors are charged with preparing students for the practice of law, and tact is an essential skill for any lawyer. However, times have changed, and people are generally less tactful, which can pose challenges in guiding students in this delicate area. How do you address tact in the classroom and among colleagues? How do we keep tact … intact?
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I once sent a professor "a note that provide[d] a meaningless apology . . . in place of an honest acknowledgment of responsibility . . . ." Some honest-to-goodness training in tact could have prevented it.
Posted by: Rick Hills' Research Assistant | Jun 24, 2012 11:26:40 PM