The gossip train: staying off of it is the way to go. We can think of the gossip train as an instant way to gain admittance to juicy, entertaining, or intimate knowledge about our colleagues.
As lawyers, it is hard not to gossip about our colleagues. Yet, it has taken me a long time to figure out, that if we gossip, all it does is reflect badly on us.
People do business with people they like, trust and respect.
By default, people who do not gossip are more liked, more trusted, and more respected.
We all know what being on the gossip train is. It is sharing knowledge and news about all the sensational and intimate rumours about a person that is not said to that person’s face.
Here is a hint: if we are talking about another lawyer in a way that we would not want that person to know about, we are more than likely gossiping about them.
The thing we also know about the gossip train is that it is intimately seductive. It puts us “in the know.” We are instantly “on the inside.” It feels good.
As with many things, however, with gossip there is a cost.
While the gossip train allows us instantly to feel like insiders, we, at the same time, create someone who is on the “outside.” The person being gossiped about is not in the know. They become an object of our discussion, ridicule, and distaste. They effectively become an “other.”
Once the “other” is created, disrespectful actions and behavior towards that person may ultimately be condoned, and even encouraged by our wider legal community. As a lawyer who practices in a small city, I have been both on the “inside” and “other” of gossip.
While, at one time, I saw gossip as harmless entertainment, I have learned it is not so harmless. It lead me to enlisting the feeling of warm approval from my peers, but without realizing the potential cost.
Despite those feelings of being on the “inside”, I know now that all participating in gossip does is make me look tacky to those same peers.
Since reading the Four Agreements and learning the importance of being impeccable with my word, I have more deeply understood that gossip is not a behaviour that is in alignment with the person I aspire to be.
At Hemminger Law Group, my law office, there is a specific agreement amongst those who work there, that we are gossip-free. We don’t gossip about each other. We know that we are totally on each other’s side. Just hang out in our office and you will see a marked difference from many work places. For a law office, it is a pretty pleasant place to be.
Have you also ever noticed that the people you profoundly respect are not gossipers?
My friend – let’s call her Karen - comes to mind. Try and gossip with her. It will go nowhere. It simply just dies. She refuses to fall to the temptation and intimacy of gossiping about another person.
Yet, if I feel I have something deeply personal and tender to share, I can trust her without reservation. I know if I tell her that I don’t want something shared, she will not share it. More of us should behave like Karen does.
Also, what I know about Karen is that myself and others have a profound amount of trust in her and respect for her. Although she is awesome in many ways, her refusal to gossip stands her apart from so many.
As a counter-example, there is this lawyer in our city who is a renowned gossip. Everyone knows that if you want something spread around, just tell her. It will be sure to disseminate.
Is this someone I respect? Nope. Is this someone I would confide in? Nope. Is this someone I trust? No way. Is this someone I would call a friend? Definitely not.
This person may get huge satisfaction from being “in the know” about her colleagues. People do actually approach her to get “the latest.”
Yet, I wonder, what does being the source of gossip do for her really? I wonder if she has close and true friends that she knows that she can confide in and who know and trust they can confide in her. I doubt it.
What does it cost her in business? Who knows.
Now, I write this as much as a reminder to myself as anyone. I think we have all been guilty of gossiping at one time or another. I know I have. A lot.
And what do we do when we learn someone has been gossiping about us?
We let it go.
And we learn from it what we can.
Instead of being twisted, hurt and angry about it, we try to understand what (if anything) we did that assisted in creating these rumours. We get nowhere by blaming those who feel they can talk about us rather than talk to us.
I practice law in a small city and have had some awesome gossip go around about me. Some of it ridiculous, and some of it true.
We need to remember that what people think of us is their business, not ours.
By Val Hemminger, divorce lawyer and owner of Hemminger Law Group.
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Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.