OK I put my hand up, I am a untidy person. The good news is that I am aware of my chronic messiness which means I have not crossed the line into it being a psychiatric condition. In fact as further evidence of just how rational I am I decided that Saturday would be the day I start a massive home tidy up. First step therefore was to get myself down to the local Waterstones to find a book that will help me break down, organise and complete the mammoth task ahead. I appreciate many people would say this is merely an avoidance tactic and that you can tidy a house without reading an instruction manual first but then those same readers are unlikely to have an issues on the tidiness front. At the book shop and having made my way through first the reference and then the home decorating section I make it to the dreaded self-help section where I find the very book I need. It’s called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Title is brilliant. It has rave reviews. I buy it and head home.
The book has me gripped before I even get to the meaty ‘how to do the tidying part’ Kondo starts ‘The first thing I do when I visit a client’s house is the kneel formally on the floor in the centre of the house and address the house in my mind. After introducing myself briefly to the house I ask for help in creating a space where the family can enjoy a happier life. Then I bow. It is a silent ritual that only takes two minutes’. Crickey, I am thinking. What an entrance! For two minutes which is quite a long time the lady you have asked round to help you sort your house out just kneels down and says nothing. Rather than worry the client that her behaviour is intended to convey that this is all simply too much for her to deal with and that she is about to flee Kondo says the ritual is understood to be her way of showing respect for the house. In that way she says it helps smooth her path through the task ahead and removes the tense expectancy in the air.
This started me thinking about the way in which lawyers generally greet their clients. I am after all observing greetings all the time when I am out and about. I can report that the firm handshake is the order of the day. This is in very marked contrast to how clients are greeted at Briffa. My default greeting even if a hand is extended to me is to give a hug. Not a French kiss kiss but a big bear hug. This is I suppose my way of removing the ‘tense expectancy in the air’ and while I have not conducted a controlled trial I would bet that this one single action is massively helpful in smooth the task ahead. I never forget, particularly when they are coming to see me about a dispute that they may be having a bad day and a hug is confirmation I am on their side and here to support them. Reading Kondo’s book has driven home the importance of greeting and maybe even how we must strive to greet people well. I am even beginning to think of ways in which we at Briffa can improve on the bear hug. Then before I can ponder further I notice it is lunchtime already and I haven’t even started on my tidiness journey.