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Get More Information with Open-Ended Questions

By suggesting the answer in your question, you diminish the impact of having the witness volunteer the facts himself…A cardinal rule on direct examination is that the lawyer should never do anything that will detract from his witness or diminish the impact of his witness’ testimony. Leading, suggestive questions do exactly that. – Thomas A. Mauet, Trial Techniques (Fifth Ed.)

ACTION ONE: DEFINE THE CONFLICT

Our foundation in the United States is cracked. Yet many of the current proposals to fix the economy, healthcare, our national security, etc. require expansion of programs. We seem to be building new rooms, an upper level and a deck on a house that will probably collapse on the flood plain. We’re “having babies in an attempt to save our marriage” to ideas that have gotten out of control.

ACTION TWO: IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS

The conflicted interests are extensive, so I am breaking them down based on some suggested concerns from a survey I received from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”). Before I get hate mail from alleged representatives of the Republican party or any special interest group, please note that I am now registered as a Democrat because I otherwise have no say in primary elections or political surveys. I remain an Independent voter who votes “across party lines” and believes restrictions or divisions based on party affiliation are unnecessary.

– Priority Issues

I was asked by the DCCC to rank my top three personal priorities for Congress. I was allowed to select from the following list.

  • Lifting the economy out of the Bush recession (Ah, the blame game! When you have no solution on which to take action, focus on blaming someone?)
  • Helping families avoid home foreclosure (As if single people aren’t facing the same issues or do not deserve the same help…)
  • Expanding access to affordable healthcare
  • Equal rights for all
  • Protecting America against terrorism
  • Bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq
  • Stabilizing Afghanistan
  • Guaranteeing retirement security for America’s seniors
  • Enacting middle-class tax relief
  • Improving educational opportunities
  • Raising wages and protecting jobs for American workers
  • Taking swift action to stop global warming (Is there an off switch we don’t know about?)
  • Restoring fiscal responsibility in government
  • Add your own priority: _________________________________________

I added my #1 priority: Returning to the mission and vision of our founding fathers before we expand a government currently controlled by many of the personal interests and human tendencies the fathers tried to keep out. All of the checks and balances were intended to keep the system fair, equal and just. The founders didn’t anticipate some of our advancements or recognize their own biased failures, but that does not change our opportunities to benefit from a very strong plan.

I want to see us unify as a country full of people from diverse backgrounds yet who seek liberty and justice for all–even when it takes more time and effort to provide those.

I want to see “the common man” have an opportunity to represent common people like me.

I don’t believe that most of our political leaders have any idea what life is like for those of us who had to pay for our own educations, didn’t go to Ivy League schools, work hard, and still struggle every day just to make enough money to pay for basic needs.

I think most politicians are too far removed from common life to understand it.

I don’t believe visiting the poor or struggling classes is enough; experience is the most reliable teacher, and the more recent the experience, the more reliable the teacher.

I have faith in the system – when it’s allowed to work – and believe term limits must be enforced. A great leader is always preparing for his replacement. She is building infrastructures for smooth transition, not campaigning for perpetual re-election or promotion. (These are public service positions. Remember?)

I look to the government for leadership and protections I cannot provide myself.

I do not expect the government to be my parent, or provide me with food, clothing, magic pills, or non-necessities.

I understand that I have a responsibility to work, to participate in the democracy and contribute to the national community.

I know I have a responsibility to care for myself and anything outside of me that I have exercised my liberty to take on (e.g., my business, my family, my home, my stuff).

I think government should provide us with:

  • A military
  • A justice system
  • Basic education so we can provide for ourselves, be contributing citizens and train our replacements
  • An efficient administration to manage our systems
  • Access to healthcare through, for example, prosecution of those who abuse the ill, take advantage, cheat, or otherwise harm our citizens or their property
  • Access to other opportunities but not necessarily through handouts

I believe a hand up is far more useful than a handout.

ACTION THREE: PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES

If I could perfectly resolve the conflicts in our government, we would see more unity. Our leaders wouldn’t have to yell at each other, gossip or use immature tactics to advance their agendas. We would see thoughtful discussion that leads to good decisions, even if they don’t make for dramatic TV. More of us would participate in the system and our communities because we’d know we could afford to (financially) and that our contributions were valued. This would be a country for all, not just the rich.

Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City, where she works with creative professionals, entrepreneurs, human resources professionals, labor managers, risk managers, and executives to generate results beyond the boundaries of their imaginations. She is committed to creating a unified human race by empowering people to have lives they forgot were possible.