Playing Well With Others

college of law trial courtroom

college of law trial courtroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I had a very unique opportunity.  Though I’ve lived in Dane County Wisconsin for over twenty years, I had never been called for jury duty.  Until now.

The jury selection process was long and interesting.   Partly because of my answers to the questions asked, and partly due to randomness, I ended up serving on the jury for a very interesting trial.  I spent the week with a very diverse group of individuals who had previously been total strangers.  By the end of the week, we knew each other very well indeed.

As a juror, I had to put aside many of the characteristics and skills I’d spent a lifetime cultivating.   Understandably, we were not allowed to do any research on the case, the people involved, or any of the topics related to it.  We were not allowed to talk to each other, or anyone involved in the trial or the case (or anyone else for that matter!) about the case.  We were not allowed to read newspapers or watch the local news for fear that we might read or see a story about the case or the trial.    I had to turn off the part of my librarian brain that wanted to search the internet to learn about the many new subject matters I was encountering daily—I could only consider the evidence and testimony presented.  I also had to squelch my tendency to discuss what I was hearing with my fellow jurors.

Having set aside my propensity for research and discussion, what other library-related skills was I left with to make it through the week?  In retrospect, I realize I relied on (and refined) my customer service skills.   Though we could not talk about the one great big elephant in the room, there were many things we could talk about.   In a way, I conducted reference interviews, learning where the others live, what they do for a living,  and the makeup of their families.   We talked about our interests, what makes us laugh and cry, during breaks and shared lunches.  We developed a rapport that we were going to need, when we finally not only could, but were required to discuss the case, during deliberation.  Now I really needed to make use of many of those customer service skills.  I needed to:

    • Listen
    • Communicate
    • Make eye contact
    • Pay attention to body language
    • Show respect
    • Work as a team
    • Find ways to get to “Yes”
    • Compromise
    • Choose words carefully
    • Take egos out of the equation and remember we were all equal.
    • Focus on points of agreement

I didn’t consciously employ these skills, but as I look back now, I think my research, training, and deliberate practice served me well.    I think I made a pretty good juror.  What other new experiences has my “life in libraries” prepared me for?

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