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  • Writer's pictureRob Carty

It Costs Nothing to Be Polite

Four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck is a sweetheart. Whenever an opponent knocked him to the ground with a punishing collision, he wouldn’t grouse. He’d congratulate the guy instead. “Nice hit, man!” “Good job, big boy!”

Why would he encourage his assassins like that?

Luck knew that in the violent game of American football, it does no good to inflame one’s opponent. This idea is so universal that it appears even in our laws of armed conflict. If we treat POWs humanely, it encourages the enemy to reciprocate and makes opposing forces more likely to surrender instead of fighting to the death.

This same idea applies in any adversarial situation, including the ruthless world of litigation.

Our profession is supposed to be collegial, but we all know how quickly things can get nasty. Still, by showing respect for your opponent, you can abate needless friction—and you may even earn a little gratitude.

No one’s saying that direct or blunt language is never warranted—as an advocate, you have to tell it like it is. Even so, you can expose every flaw in your opponent's case while still showing a level-headed respect for the people involved. As Andrew Luck would no doubt confirm, it may take some fire out of your opponent’s belly.

And you know what? As Professor Joe Regalia recently reminded us, being affable enhances your credibility. Shortly after I drafted this post, I ran across this tweet from Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman confirming the real-world power of Professor Regalia’s advice:

Think about that the next time you’re tempted to return fire on a vitriolic opponent.

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