Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

The Strangest Thing Just Happened

North Carolina Malpractice InsuranceHave you ever had the experience of hearing an obscure word, name or piece of information – and then encountering it again shortly thereafter?

Perhaps a colleague at work is humming a tune you’ve never heard before, and then driving home later that day you hear the very same song on the radio.

Or on the morning of your child’s third birthday you check the weekly court calendar and discover that your nightmare case is – that’s right – number three on the docket.

When such things happen you are experiencing what is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Known in less literate circles as the “Wow! That’s weird!” phenomenon.

As it turns out, though, Baader-Meinhof is not so phenomenal after all. Psychologists, neurologists and other brainy types say these crazy coincidences are easily explainable.

* Data overload. Every day our brains are bombarded with information. Much of it is random and isolated. When any two pieces of data happen to intersect – especially if they involve new and unfamiliar material – it strikes us as remarkable. But even more remarkable is the volume of stuff that passes through without repetition or notice.

* Pattern recognition. Our brains respond to patterns. This is a good thing. We see the bushes move, we hear a rattling sound, we glimpse a long squiggly thing, and our brain assembles these elements into: snake! Followed quickly by: run!

* Recency. When we learn something new and then hear it again soon afterward, it tends to stand out. Our eyes are less likely to pop if days or weeks pass between the two experiences.

Put all of this together, and the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon becomes little more than a rerun of Nova.

But remember – clients are people too, and they have brains, at least some of them. Use the Baader-Meinhof principles to enhance your standing in their eyes.

* Connect the dots. Instead of simply showering your clients with paperwork, show them how one thing (your legal brief, for example) was linked directly to another (your motion being granted).

* Establish patterns. Returning calls, giving sound advice and being available when needed are habits that every client appreciates – and will pay good money for.

*Be prompt. Don’t let cases grow stale. And don’t sit on good news – deliver it to your client immediately for an extra Baader-Meinhof boost.

And the next time you get an unexpected Facebook request from an old friend who – wow! – you were just thinking about, don’t be surprised. It’s just a mind game.

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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