About a year ago, I was in the middle of evacuating, ahead of Hurricane Dorian, which appeared to be aiming directly at the South Carolina coast where I live. And if that wasn’t enough drama for one day, I received an email from a client who responded quite negatively to the first draft of his new bio we had written on his behalf.
Looking back, I’d trade that seemingly stressful day to the many stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertain political climate affecting our personal and work lives. A year ago, “Work from Home” was a concept that a few, fortunate people could manage – and not a new workaround to maintain their lifestyle. My friend in legal marketing had to change her childbirth delivery plans, including her parents and close friends not being allowed in the hospital.
This got me thinking about how much today’s stressors – when added to our clients’ negative responses can affect the workday.
These are truly tough times.
Whenever I allow it, those negative comments play like a loop tape in my head. I begin to doubt the future, my abilities, and myself. Next, I’m wondering whether I’m suffering from a case of Imposter Syndrome or if the world is ending. Most times, this is a self-limiting illness, and a little humor is all that’s needed to zap the negative energy. I’ll picture Al Franken in his Stuart Smalley character from SNL… staring into the mirror proclaiming, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
I know. Stuart Smalley never worked with lawyers.
Check yourself. Many lawyers are fueled by negative responses and revel in the zero-sum game aspect that the practice of law offers. That’s when it’s smart to check yourself. Wait. Did I read his response correctly? Have I “considered the source?” Some people HATE everything! And “I hate it” is where they start the discussion.
The good eggs. Other lawyers, especially those who are also mediators, aren’t this extreme. And for the record, most lawyers I’ve worked with appreciate what we marketers do and the value we bring to the table. So I quickly outlined this blog post about how we deal with lawyers – who often live in a negative state, what affect they have on our lives, and how we can choose to manage our emotions.
Turn to your tribe. I reached out to some of my favorite folks in the legal marketing business for their input. I asked them how they deal with negative responses and energy from their lawyer clients. I was also interested in learning about the coping mechanisms they use to manage the negativity. Here’s what I heard:
“Life is too short to be sucked into the negative vortex by a lawyer.” That response, from a CMO from a major law firm, who added, “I have always told my teams that no matter how difficult the lawyers or firm leadership are, we can never lose our sense of self, our moral compass, or allow them to alter our styles and personalities.”
This, folks, is a very supportive CMO.
Jaffe’s CEO/Owner Vivian Hood let me know that my query was quite timely. (I guess she was having a similarly rough day?). Her immediate reaction to a negative response is “to immediately figure out why what happened, and how do I fix it? We all want to do our best, and it’s tough to receive a harsh accusation or rude remark instead of constructive criticism or feedback. It’s easy to spin out and have it ruin my day, but I also have to consider who sent it and what the actual problem is. It’s often the other person’s perception or expectations that weren’t aligned with mine, and perhaps I needed to do a better job educating and informing. It can also make a difference if it comes from someone I’ve never worked with before or from someone I know well and know their communication style. Some people are just jerks, and that’s just how they react to everyone. Taking a deep breath (or 10!) and remaining polite, responsive, and detailed in my explanation to provide an understanding of why I did or wrote something always helps diffuse the problem. I try to send a positive reaction back when making changes or fixing the problem.”
Thank you for that one, Vivian!
Kimberly Rice, the President/Chief Strategist of KLA Marketing, shared an all-too-common complaint, “I find that many lawyers set an impossible standard of perfection, so they frequently are disappointed in others’ and their work product. Of course, realistically, these feelings have very little to do with us.”
Wow. If only we could internalize this.
So, whatever became of the lawyer who told me he didn’t like his bio? Turns out, he let it marinate for a while (two weeks!) and shared it with his wife (also a lawyer). His comments were limited to a request to tighten the transition between two paragraphs and indicated how the Southern District of New York should be correctly identified.
And that was all it was.
Now then, could the rest of the world just settle down a little?
photo by Nancy Slome