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Polite Hearings, and the Distinction Between the Person and His Conduct

Not long ago I was at an unemployment hearing. It was the same old drill in most respects. Two parties opposed each other. A boss had fired an employee. The boss's testimony opposed the employee's testimony, and vice versa. Neither side changed any beliefs when the hearing was over.

But after the hearing, a great thing happened.

After the hearing, I saw my client, the employee, approach the boss that had fired him and now testified against him. The two men proceeded to shake hands. Then they stood and talked for awhile. From the two persons' body language, I could tell that they liked and respected each other. I also knew that neither person had changed his mind about the hearing, or about feeling right about his position on the job termination.

These two dynamics- having a big dispute with an opponent, yet liking that opponent- are not contradictory. Not if disputes are recognized for what they are: a conflict between two views, not a conflict between two persons.

As is often written, it's important to recognize there's a distinction between a person and his views. Between a person and his conduct, or a person and his misconduct, e.g. "hate the sin, love the sinner."

It's easy to note these distinctions, and their surface logic that it's best to be polite and not personalize matters. But these oft-spoken standards usually go out the window after a dispute starts. More often than not, legal proceedings are made personal and taken personally.

But not this time. Which is more than good.

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