As lawyers, most of us have been moved by the injustice of the world to study the realm of ideas, opinion, and arguments. We’ve read thousands of pages and talked until we turned blue in the face. We have gobs of words at our disposal and have learned how to use them to cut through crap and argue a point of view with enthusiasm—to destroy the other side’s arguments.
More than any profession, the law breeds professionals with a whole lot to say.
What learning the law does not teach us is that silence can be as important as using our vast vocabulary to slice and dice, like swords and daggers — that silence can even overpower words. It doesn’t teach us that silence may be just the thing you need to make your practice thrive, flow, and sustain you as a person.
How can shutting up help you be a better lawyer? Deliver better services? Become a known quantity in your community?
It’s totally counterintuitive, but “quiet” is one of your most powerful tools. Here are some methods for finding the power of silence and some of the ways that being quiet can support your greater work:
- Meditation. Being alone and quiet with yourself for a few moments each day without having to think about all the things you have to do will support your calm action throughout the day. Just try taking 10 minutes each morning to sit in quiet, dismissing any thoughts pressing in for your attention. If you’ve never done it, many local yoga studios offer meditation classes and there are tons of online resources to learn this ancient practice.
- Listening. Clients come to see you with something on their mind. Yes, of course, you need to do a lot of explaining when you’re meeting with clients, but make a point of stopping every so often and letting there be silence between you. This gives your client time to formulate thoughts and questions for you. They appreciate that.
- Allowing Your Clients to Make Decisions. Including hiring you. Once you’ve identified whether you can help a potential client and what your fee would be for that help, take a few minutes away from your clients so they can think. When you do that, you make room for a voluntary, joyful engagement — leading to more referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. If you pressure people by talking, talking, talking them into it, they’ll eventually resent you.
- Entrainment. By being quiet for a few moments in meetings with your client, even as your client gets uncomfortable, stay in a state of deep comfort. Your client will eventually entrain to your calmness and will walk out of your office feeling more at peace than they came in. That means they will have experienced some relief to the burden they brought in, and they experienced that with you. After all, that’s why they came to see you, isn’t it? Again, your natural presence will bring in more of the business you want and do well.
- Self-discipline. The world of words is a world of emotion. By making silence a priority for your work life, you leave yourself room to think more clearly than if you let your thoughts and emotions race around without a leash. Let other people do the talking for a change. Give yourself the relief of not having to talk or answer every single thing.
- Build a thicker skin. As a lawyer, you’re called upon to hold up under difficult circumstances. Some lawyers take this to mean they must go on the offensive and be total jerks to other lawyers. Personally, I think there is no greater cause of attorney meltdown, addiction, and disbarment than having to deal with other lawyers. But silence can help us withstand the hurtful things people may say or do — to not take things personally and react out of what we may see as righteous anger. Silence helps us stay connected to our humanity, to see that opposing counsel isn’t being a jerk to make our lives miserable but because they have no other mechanism to deal with their burden. Lucky you. You do.
- Better solutions. Being quiet for a time each day will help you find solutions to complex problems better than if you’re running from one thing to another. If you’re so overscheduled that you can’t find time to be quiet each day, between meetings, before work, before going home, try it for one week and see what happens. Dollars to donuts, you’ll come up with some fabulous solutions for your life’s conundrums and for your clients.
- Better health. Cardiologists are now prescribing daily meditation for their heart patients. Yes, it’s true. It’s plain good for you and will keep you alive longer to serve more people.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be surrounded by other lawyers who value the psychological, spiritual, and emotional aspects of our work? To be able to find support for your own personal journey among people who deeply understand your professional journey?
If you’re interested, look no further…