By Chiara Lamacchia
While growing up, I was constantly bombarded with "Objection, your Honour!" on TV shows like Perry Mason and Law & Order. These dramatic objections, though often exaggerated for entertainment purposes, play a crucial role in actual court cases.
Lawyers employ objections to protect their clients' rights and ensure fair trials. In fact, lawyers are trained to use objections strategically to challenge the opposing party's arguments and evidence, and to protect their client's interests.
Objections are primarily used in a legal context. But… could we envision them in our everyday life? The dynamics of an “objection"
In a trial, an "objection" is a formal statement made by one of the parties to challenge the admissibility or appropriateness of certain evidence or testimony presented by the opposing party.
The objection is typically made during a trial when a witness is being questioned, when an exhibit is being introduced, or when an argument is being presented. The objecting party must state the legal basis for the objection that explains why the evidence or testimony is inadmissible or irrelevant. Then, the judge will rule on its validity with the usual “Sustained” or “Overruled”.
Objections for everyday life
I find very fascinating the potential application of legal tools beyond the courtroom – in everyday life situations. Objections are no exception.
For example, we often make assumptions about people or situations that may not be accurate. By learning to challenge these assumptions and ask questions to seek clarification, and express disagreement in a respectful and constructive manner, we can avoid misunderstandings, improve decision-making, and foster better communication.
It can be also use on those many occasions when someone says something that is unclear or confusing – an objection can be the right way to better understand their point of view.
At the same time, if you do not agree with another person's viewpoint or argument, objections are the best way to do so in a respectful and constructive way that can help foster better communication and understanding.
Also, just as an objection in court can be used to protect someone's legal rights, it can help protect our emotional and physical well-being in relationships and other interactions.
The principles behind objections, such as questioning, seeking clarity, and asserting boundaries, can be valuable tools for navigating various everyday scenarios.
Let the game begin: #Hearsay.
The Hearsay objection
“Hearsay” is a term used in the law to describe an out-of-court statement that is offered as evidence in court to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. Hearsay evidence is generally not admissible in court, as it is considered unreliable and lacks the safeguards of cross-examination and oath-taking.
Example – Suppose that in a murder trial, the prosecution calls a witness who testifies that they heard the defendant's neighbour say, "I saw the defendant leave his house with a gun on the night of the murder." This would be hearsay evidence, because the witness did not actually see the defendant with the gun themselves and is relying on what someone else said.
In an objection on hearsay grounds occurs, the judge may sustain the objection and prevent the testimony from being admitted as evidence.
It goes without saying that hearsay objections can be complex and technical and that there are many exceptions and nuances to this rule. For example, some statements may be admissible as non-hearsay if they are offered to show the speaker's state of mind, rather than the truth of the matter asserted.
Hearsay for everyday life
You might not realise but we frequently encounter situations in our everyday lives that resemble the hearsay phenomenon seen in the legal realm.
It is the typical “friend of a friend” situation –individuals repeat information, they have heard from others without witnessing it firsthand, merely relying on what someone else said.
Every day we may experience hearsay in the form of rumours, gossip, or unverified information shared on social media or in casual conversations.
If you live a life of hearsays, you might be living in a dangerous bubble of misinformation. The evidence you are surrounded with might be unreliable because it is second-hand, based on rumours, or simply fake news.
A colleague is telling you that they heard around about a co-worker planning to leave the company
A friend is telling you they heard the new Italian restaurant in town has a terrible service
An acquainted is telling you that someone on TV explained how vaccines are ineffective and dangerous for your health
A stranger quote a politician sharing data about the large number of immigrants and the increase in crime rates
Misinformation spread quickly and easily. Imagine someone spreads a rumour about a particular product being harmful, based on something they heard from a friend who heard it from someone else. This rumour may spread rapidly through word of mouth or social media, even though there is no credible evidence to support it. We all know how this can snowball.
Without verifying this information, you tell another person, who tells someone else, and soon the rumour spreads throughout your social circle. We’ve all been there at least once.
The Pitfalls of Hearsay
In our interconnected world, information spreads at a rapid pace, often through various channels and sources. One such source is hearsay, which involves receiving information from someone who was not directly involved or present in a situation and relaying it to others. However, the pitfalls of hearsay must be recognized and acknowledged. Relying on hearsay can lead to detrimental consequences due to its inherent limitations and the potential for distortion. Hearsay should be approached with caution, considering its lack of firsthand knowledge, susceptibility to distortion, absence of accountability, potential for spreading misinformation, and unreliability for decision-making.
Lack of firsthand knowledge: Hearsay involves information that is passed along from someone who was not directly involved or present in the situation. This introduces a level of distance and potential inaccuracies in the information being conveyed.
Potential for distortion: any piece of information can easily be distorted or exaggerated as it gets passed from one person to another. Each retelling introduces the possibility of errors, biases, or misinterpretations, leading to a distorted version of the original information.
Lack of accountability: With hearsay, it can be challenging to hold anyone accountable for the accuracy of the information. Since it often originates from unidentified or unnamed sources, it becomes difficult to trace the information back to its origins or verify its reliability.
Potential for spreading misinformation: By relying on hearsay and passing it along without verification, there is a risk of perpetuating false or misleading information. Hearsay can quickly spread through social networks, leading to the proliferation of inaccurate or baseless claims.
Unreliable for decision-making: Making important decisions based on hearsay can lead to poor judgments or actions. Without verified and reliable information, it becomes difficult to assess the credibility and accuracy of the claims being made.
Again, relying on hearsay can have detrimental consequences due to its inherent limitations and potential for distortion. The lack of firsthand knowledge, potential for distortion, absence of accountability, potential for spreading misinformation, and unreliability for decision-making make hearsay a risky foundation for forming opinions or making important choices. As critical thinkers, it is crucial to approach hearsay with scepticism and seek corroborating evidence from reliable sources. By doing so, we can navigate the information landscape more effectively, make informed decisions, and contribute to a more accurate and reliable exchange of information in our everyday lives.
The importance of Fact-Checking
Regardless of which pitfall you focus on, the underling work to do through a hearsay objection is fact-checking. It involves verifying information from reliable and credible sources, seeking primary sources whenever possible, and cross-referencing multiple sources to validate claims.
If you cannot access directly the source, rise your level of awareness: keep in mind that this could be a weak piece of knowledge and therefore you should not base your entire opinion on it.
By being aware of the hearsay objection and its relevance to misinformation, we can develop critical thinking skills and learn to evaluate the reliability of information we receive. We can also challenge others to use reliable sources of information and avoid being misled by fake or inexact pieces inputs.
When you focus on the hearsay awareness, you would recognise that the information is second-hand and potentially unreliable. Instead of spreading the rumour, you could use critical thinking and investigate the rumour for yourself by reading online reviews, talking to people who have visited the restaurant, or even trying the restaurant yourself.
Evaluating the credibility of the source, being sceptical, and applying critical thinking skills are key elements in fact-checking. By fact-checking, we can make informed judgments, avoid perpetuating falsehoods, and uphold the integrity of our beliefs and decisions.
Objections, including the specific example of the hearsay objection, play a vital role in the legal system to ensure fair trials and reliable evidence. Although objections may seem confined to the courtroom, the underlying principles can be applied in our everyday lives to combat misinformation and enhance critical thinking.
By challenging assumptions, seeking clarity, asserting boundaries, and fact-checking information, we can navigate through a sea of hearsay and contribute to a more informed and truthful society.
By employing these principles, we can protect ourselves and others from the spread of unreliable information and make decisions based on reliable evidence.
Therefore … "Objection, your Honour!”
About the Author
Chiara Lamacchia is a consultant in legal, marketing & legal forecasting, working in corporate strategy for global organisations across different sectors, after an LL.M. from Bocconi University (Milan, Italy) and an MSc in Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University (UK). Chiara is the Founder of lawrketing.com and withoutconsulting.com, promoting the adoption of ground-breaking ways of using the law for innovation and competitive advantage.
Besides, among other things, she authored and published the book "Lawrketing – What Business Never Realised About Law", introducing the concept of “lawrketing” through a unique combination of law, business, marketing and innovation.
> Connect with Chiara on linkedin.com/in/chiaralamacchia
> Find more articles in the series The Legal Edge Series on Legal Business World