WISE COUNSEL

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s advice for success in marriage, the Supreme Court, and everything in between

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Supreme Court Justice, cancer survivor, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and the namesake of a praying mantis species. The woman knows a thing or two about how to succeed at life.

At a Feb. 6 speech at Stanford University, where she is a visiting fellow, Ginsburg shared the advice she has found most useful at work and in life. “It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day,” Ginsburg said:

‘In every good marriage,’ she counseled, ‘it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.’ I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil [Ginsburg’s husband Martin died in 2010]. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.

Letting go of irritations and grievances is a key step toward creating the kind of mutually respectful environment where decision-making thrives. Despite their profound philosophical differences on certain issues, she said, she and her fellow justices make it a point to maintain respect and even friendship on the country’s highest court.

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

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