Managing Self

Giving up gossip

Written by Allison Wolf

From time to time we all do it.

Did you hear? Tamara was let go from Reid Chalmers LLP, what do you think that was about? I heard it was because she couldn’t get along with the head of litigation.

My friend vents to me about on ongoing situation on a file:  I’ve got Tom on the other side of the file and have to tell you the guy is a complete wing nut with no sense of ethics. He’s throwing every legal argument he can think of as us, most of it nonsensical, and he’s driving the cost of this litigation through the roof. The guy should be reported. He’s hopeless and a pain. I’d never do that to my clients.

And I respond:  How stressful for you! What an – expletive – jerk!

We indulge in a little gossip. We vent our feelings about people.

No harm done right?

Think again.

The fact is that gossip doesn’t change the circumstances or the situation. What it does do is to cause another situation to emerge based on negative feelings and words.

I have been thinking about gossip this morning because of an intriguing quote arrived in my inbox:

“Relief comes when we can be honest about what we’re thinking, feeling, saying, and doing. We take responsibility for our actions without feeling guilty about them because we don’t attach a big-ego “I.” Thubten Chodron

This led me to Thubten Chodron’s excellent article about gossip ending with 7 actionable tips: The Truth About Gossip.

I highly recommend you give it a read.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When talking about others is motivated by thoughts of ill will, jealousy, or attachment, conversations turn into gossip. These thoughts may seem to be subconscious, but if we pay close attention to our mind we’ll be able to catch them in the act. Many of these are thoughts that we don’t want to acknowledge to ourselves, let alone to others, but my experience is that when I become courageous enough to notice and admit them, I’m on my way to letting them go. Also, there’s a certain humor to the illogical way that these negative thoughts purport to bring us happiness. Learning to laugh at our wrong ways of thinking can be therapeutic.”

Her writing illuminated for me how my own words at times have inflamed a situation instead of contributing to positive action or reflection. I learned a valuable lesson that I will be putting into action next chance I get.

Next time my friend complains to me about Tom I’ll be ready with a different response:

I can hear this situation is really tough for you, tell me more?

I can listen and reflect back to him what he is feeling, and help him to calm his mind.

We could also discuss how Tom is playing out a litigation strategy of riling up my friend and how my friend would like to respond tactically to that.

Thubuten Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun and also the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington. For those of you who aren’t interested in Buddhism or meditation – don’t be put off. The points raised in the article are applicable to all of us and the 7 actionable tips at the end offer some valuable points of refection.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and a lawyer coach with over a decade of experience helping clients overcome challenges and achieve success however they define it. In practice this can be many things from helping a law firm partner get more “dad time” with his young family, to coaching a lawyer on the business development strategy, skills, and implementation to grow her legal practice. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at allison@shiftworks.ca or visit my website thelawyercoach.com.

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