Ask Amanda

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Dear Amanda,

I’m a 1L and I just learned that some of the people in my section call me a “gunner” behind my back. It’s true that I like to contribute in class, but I also want people to like me. How can I judge when I can talk and when I’ve talked too much?

Sincerely,

A pacifist at heart

Dear Pacifist,

Who cares what other people think? You’re contributing to an important part of the Harvard Law School tradition. Without you, there would be no Gunner Bingo. Without you, or rather, without people like you, I would have been unable to run an illegal gambling ring out of the back of my Property class 1L year. Actually, that means that without you, Dan Loss would not have been able to take all my money on the rare occasions when he came to class. So maybe you’re not that useful. It’s my own fault, though, as Dan won by using the ultra-smart strategy of putting a dollar on a 10-to-1 shot every week, while also putting two dollars on the 2-to-1(newly engaged!) Jeff Leven. As payouts were made on the basis of who spoke the longest rather than who raised their hand the most, no one who has taken a gander at the music section could have any doubt about the outcome of that bet.

The fact that you’re eager to talk in class probably means that you’re thoroughly engaged in the material. Or really confused. Either way, you’re getting more out of your legal education than most people here. Especially me. Each class you attend costs something like $300, so you should be making the most of your time there. People who are really hostile to gunners are usually the same people who are playing FreeCell or writing lame columns for The Record while interest slowly accumulates on their $30,000 a year education. Tolerate their mockery now, then get medieval on them when you’re a judge and they appear in court unable to answer that seemingly meaningless question you posed in CivPro back in the day.

If you’re so spineless that you really want to change your behavior so that other people will like you, then you should use how others react to you as a guide for your behavior. When you raise your hand, closely watch those around you. If they roll their eyes, put your hand down and keep your mouth shut. Actually, your best bet would be to stop talking altogether, though, except when called on. Since you’re a 1L, I am guessing that most of your classes are Socratic, and you’re only raising your hand to ask questions. Most of your peers probably perceive you as slowing down the class. And they might be right.

If you just can’t stop yourself from talking in class, but you still want other people to like you, then you should be mindful of your behavior outside of class, rather than inside it. People don’t like gunners because they’re perceived as aggressive, arrogant, obnoxious braggarts. If you defy the gunner stereotype outside of class, people will forgive your transgressions inside of class. Or you could just try to be friends with the other gunners. They’re probably lonely, too.

Yours,

Amanda

Dear Amanda,

I have this friend who keeps bugging me to write questions to her advice column in The Record. She’s threatened me with hatred and physical violence if I don’t respond.

How do I get her off my back? Do you have any ideas what type of questions I should ask?

Sincerely,

Aiming for self-preservation

Dear Aiming,

If she’s really that scary, writing this letter was probably not the best idea. I’d leave the country if I were you. If ever in this situation again, I would advise you to write a letter on a subject that would provide her with the opportunity to chastise her roommates for allowing a mouse to roam freely in the apartment, while she has to stuff towels under the door and huddle at the center of her bed watching Dawson’s Creek reruns and being thankful for wireless internet access..

Yours,

Amanda

Got problems? Amanda has solutions, and she’d love to share them in a public forum. E-mail here.

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