Before the advent of the internet some people thought the world’s problems were due to a lack of communication. Now that the internet is here, there is no lack of communication and things seem to have gotten worse.
Presumably the problem isn’t with the volume of communication, rather the quality of it. Having pondered the issue for a while, it seems to me that there are two problems with the quality of communication:
A recent response to my letter1 to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) presents an interesting case study in “meaningful dialogue”. The responder asked to remain anonymous (the post was made in a private forum), but gave his permission for me to reproduce his comment:
“I know that almost everyone in [this private Facebook group] has nothing but hate and contempt for lawyers but they are a reality of the legal system. Submissions [to the ALRC] were invited on the material in the [ALRC’s Discussion Paper]. Whilst the letter may contain valid criticisms an invitation for submissions is not an invitation for intemperate, sarcastic letters. How the LRC deals with references is largely for it to determine - and reasonable minds may differ as to the approach taken. I fear that the first paragraph will lead to the immediate filing of this document in a nearby bin.
I’d strongly recommend a different approach be taken should a Royal Commission dealing with Family Law be held, lest it will come very close to contempt from which certain consequences might flow.”
The first thing that should be said about this response is that he read my letter and responded meaningfully, and for that he should be given credit. At least he listened. Other people commented but their comments went off on their own tangents. They are entitled to do that, of course, but it is hard to move forward when everyone’s talking about different things.
Since Mr X did me the courtesy of carefully reading my letter, I would like to do the same for him – but what does that mean in practice? As is often the case, I’ll lean on Edward de Bono and refer to one of his thinking tools. There is a tool called ADI2 which encourages participants to put points of discussion between people under headings of Agreement, Disagreement and Irrelevant.
With all due respect to Dr de Bono, I will modify the headings somewhat in this case:
I think I have shown that by carefully examining someone’s correspondence, identifying where we agree, where we disagree, and why we disagree, I have learned a lot more than I would have just by responding “off the cuff”. Particularly interesting for me was Mr X’s apparent disinterest in elaborating on areas of agreement.
I will give Mr X a copy of my response, and whether he chooses to learn anything himself will be up to him.