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“It helps to sometimes be a little deaf”: a great piece of advice from Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ginsburg SOTU
Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call Group / Getty

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has an op-ed in the New York Times Sunday on her advice for living. And there is this one part that I just loved:

Another often-asked question when I speak in public: “Do you have a some good advice you might share with us?” Yes, I do. It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. “In every good marriage, it helps to be a little deaf.” I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of marital partnership. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.

Ginsburg later returns to the same theme when describing her work on the Supreme Court:

Despite our strong disagreements on cardinal issues — think, for example, of controls on political campaign spending, affirmative action, access to abortion — we genuinely respect one another, even enjoy one another’s company.

Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission. We could not do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn’t — to use one of Justice Antonin Scalia’s favorite expressions — “get over it!”

Ginsburg’s advice feels especially meaningful as we enter the final weeks of campaign season and there are many “thoughtless or unkind words” being spoken. In a moment when the easy option can be to react — on Facebook, on Twitter, on any platform where someone says something you don’t like — the Supreme Court justice’s words are a helpful reminder that there is always another option: Don’t say anything at all, and get on with your day.

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