For several years I worked in a small-ish town in a small-ish bar where everybody knew your name. Stepping into an examination for discovery was almost as familiar as stepping into Cheers. During an examination for a discovery of my client, defence counsel – a lawyer who was typically patient and good-natured – became frustrated and raised his voice. I let it go. But the anger continued into the next question, louder still, demanding my client answer the question with more clarity. I stuck out my hand, fingers up, palm out, to indicate to my client not to answer. Defence counsel whipped around, facing me, eyes digging into me, “What? I’m entitled to an answer!” To which I answered, poker-face, in as calm and measured as a tone as I could muster while maintaining eye contact, “For the record, defence counsel’s voice has raised to an unacceptable level in my view. Let’s take a break. I could use a coffee.” I nodded to my client and we stood up and walked over to grab a few snacks. Defence counsel followed suit, nary a word between us. When we returned to the room, the discovery continued civilly.
After the discovery I received an email from defence counsel apologizing for his conduct. He was going through some problems outside of work. It was unnecessary but a nice gesture – whatever wrong was done was forgiven quickly. Uncivil conduct can be cured with civil conduct. I try and remind myself whenever I see someone treat me poorly that “it’s not personal”. It is likely a bad day for that person, or it is how that person treats everybody. Somehow that helps me forgive and soldier on. It’s a small thing, but I hope it helps you too.