By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
So I almost called this post "Beware of Negative Messaging," then I realized that that itself is a negative message. Focusing on what isn't true, or focusing on what needs to be avoided is certainly part of communication, part of litigation, and judging from an uncomfortable number of my titles, part of this blog. But a recent essay by one of my favorite communication scholars (George Lakoff), on one of my favorite topics (political communication), made me think about the number of times in litigation where our messages may be unintentionally giving power to precisely the arguments that we want our decision makers to avoid instead of focusing on our own positive message.
Now when I say "positive message," I want to be clear that I don't mean that in the Pollyannish sense of emphasizing the good in everything, and rainbows and puppies and all. No, by "positive" I mean focusing more on what is true, less on what isn't true. I mean focusing more on where we did fulfill our responsibilities, less on where our opponent is wrong in saying we didn't fulfill our responsibilities. I mean focusing more on what we are proving, less on what we are denying. Litigation can be dark and dirty business, so we certainly can't avoid the negative, and we generally don't want to. But when it comes to our theme, our central message, and the choice of where we spend the majority of our time, the positive case should win out over the negative.