Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 30, 2015


View From The Cheap Seats

William O. "Bill" James, Jr.

Words are the ultimate lubricant. An idea stated in a way that people can understand can greatly improve the chances that those that hear the idea will agree with its premise. Ironically, words also have the ability to mess up even the best situations. We have all been at parties where a misplaced word changed the whole mood of the event. To make things worse, the intended meaning behind your words matters only to the extent that the person you are talking to hears them the same way you intended. 

How often do we think about communication, and how important it is to our daily lives? How much effort do we put into what we say in order to maximize a situation? I make a living arguing cases, and I find it unsettling when I consider the meager amount of effort I put into making sure people understand what I mean and say. That says nothing about the amount of time I spend listening at only half power. You know what I mean: when you listen only as hard as you have to so that you can respond appropriately if asked a question. After all, no one wants to get caught ignoring. The only thing worse is over-thinking what you say and what you hear.

How many relationships in your life would be improved by better communication? What if you really listened to others and tried to make sure they clearly understood what you said? What if you really said what you meant? No riddles, no passive-aggressive word games, just plain talk. I’m sure a lot of relationships would flourish, but how many would end?

What would happen if everyone did say what they meant? A lot of people would not know how to take it. In a world full of people that say what they mean by saying something else, being spoken to plainly could be quite a shock to the senses. Not to mention no one really likes the person that always says what they mean. They are often thought of as rude.

Maybe there’s a middle ground. Maybe if we were a little clearer in what we said and what we meant, we could communicate better without being offensive. There’s really no way around hurting feelings if you’re going to level with people, but what we do say can be said in a respectful manner and without venom. To the extent that we’re all grown-ups, we need to learn to accept the truth for what it is. They say the truth hurts, but we all make better decisions when we know what’s real.

Make some effort to listen closer to what people say and strive to be clearer on what you say. Let people know how you feel and what you expect. Communicate respectively but truthfully.  If you do these things, you’ll never have to worry about how people will respond or have to remember what you’ve said. Good communication is beneficial to everyone, even those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

This column was originally published in the Hamilton County Herald on Feb. 7, 2014.

Bill James is a co-founder of the James Law Firm with offices in Little Rock, Conway and Fayetteville, Arkansas. His primary area of practice is criminal defense.  He can be contacted at  Bill@JamesFirm.com