THE OTHELLO PRINCIPLE
Confidentiality is at the centre of the interpreting profession and drives interpreters to guard the content of conferences, meetings, depositions, and medical consultations all over the world. Our responsibility to do so is listed in every professional association’s code of ethics and professional conduct guidelines.
However, in the 21st century, social media dangles the temptation of raising our professional profiles in front of our eyes like a bright, red, juicy apple from the forbidden tree. And so the need to balance one of interpreters most difficult challenges – the duality of remaining invisible and unnoticed while enhancing our professional personas and business profiles – gains unprecedented relevance and becomes increasingly difficult.
Truth is there are as many ways to achieve this balance as interpreters on Earth: some go on a full-on selfie and online conference screenshot frenzy, others stick to re-sharing only what their clients have made public online themselves, and a few get permission to share before posting and add hashtags such as #clientauthorised to their postings.
At MULTILATERAL, I prefer to follow what I call The Othello Principle.
See, in Shakespeare’s famous play, Iago finally gets Othello to mistrust Desdemona by remind him that she lied to her father to be with him and plants the lethal seed of doubt in his mind by getting him to wonder what would keep her from doing it again – to him.
By the same token, if I shared even the tiniest bit of information about my clients and what I have done for them, then what is to keep me from sharing ‘something else’? It would be almost as once a sharer, always a sharer…
On top of it, most of my work is in the diplomatic sector where privacy and confidentiality are paramount and, dare I say, more multifaceted than in other areas of interpreting work.
Therefore, I decided years ago not to share what I do on social media nor to list clients (or their logos) in my website but, instead, devote my marketing efforts to promoting how useful and helpful interpreting is, aiding cross-cultural communication and understanding, and embodying the MULTILATERAL Way.
Since I have adopted it, The Othello Principle has been serving me well. Not only is it a great way to protect my clients’ confidentiality but it is also pushing me to be more creative when promoting my own work.
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