By Dr. Kevin Boully:
A young woman carries two cups of coffee into the World Trade Center. The elevator doors squeeze to a close just before she can hop aboard to surprise her mother working on the 72nd floor. She waits patiently for another ding. You know what happens next. The 9/11 attacks shake the building and force her to safety and a long day of worrying before she finally learns her mother is safe. This story has a happy ending. If the line at the coffee shop is a little shorter, or the barista a little faster, she is aboard that elevator and life is forever changed.[i]
The woman is Earlyne Alexander and she shares the above story on The Moth, one of my favorite resources for enjoying and learning persuasion through storytelling. Others who got on that elevator before the doors shut did not survive. So while Ms. Alexander’s story stems from a once-in-a-lifetime situation and a real-world example of life and death, you daily experience examples of a fascinating phenomenon her story illustrates – one action can cause a sequence of cascading, unexpected consequences. If you have tried cases to a jury, you know too well that one unexpected trial event can send ripples throughout the remainder, changing perceptions and leading jurors to surprising conclusions. In this post, we explore how the ripple effects of change and delay converge with the ripple effects of jury persuasion in the context of construction litigation.