“petty”

adjective.

1. of little importance; trivial.
Synonyms: trivial, trifling, minor, small, insignificant, inconsequential, inconsiderable, negligible, paltry, footling, pettifogging

adjective.

2. of secondary or lesser importance, rank, or scale examples: “petty cash, petty official, petty theft”

3. noun, capitalized.

Petty, as in Richard Petty, King Richard, the winningest NASCAR driver of all time.

Example: Petty let me sit in the driver’s seat of his car when I was six years old. (see black & white photo in my office.)

A most trivial pursuit

Last week I got an email from a children’s therapist in Tampa, Florida demanding I remove the subheading “The Kid Counselor” from a section of my bio on the “About”
page of my website. The phrase in a remote place on my site is a reference to me acting like a counselor when I was in junior high. However, this Tampa counselor says I’m “violating her trademark and international brand” and is giving me two weeks to remove it.

Let that sink in. I used a phrase with a completely different meaning as a sub-heading of my bio in one section of one page on my website about marriage therapy. Yep, I’m a marriage therapist in Tennessee who doesn’t even work with children being threatened by a children’s play therapist in Florida. In truthfulness, the wording of the initial
communique was professional and courteous, yet the implied “cease and desist” message came through loud and clear.

I don’t even know how she found the 3-word phrase leaning in the cluttered back corner of the garage closet of my website. Certainly no one has ever Googled “The Kid
Counselor” and had my name pop up and call me for child therapy. I’m just trying to find my back-up set of car keys that must be in this house somewhere; and these folks
have digital bloodhounds that can sniff out a perceived buried trademark violation 680 miles away. That’s impressive!

Where were these people when we were looking for Osama bin Laden?

I’ve never heard of this lady. I haven’t found anyone in my counselors’ network who has heard of her. We don’t generally keep track of child therapists in west Florida. But I’ve been informed that it’s not about the Tampa practice, that she has an “international brand.”

OK, perhaps she’s a big deal in Ireland, I don’t know.

You gotta be kidding

What I do know is that her warning is so petty and absurd it’s unbelievable. My local colleagues as well as my friends in two large counselor networks can’t stop laughing.
But the “marketing director” in Tampa isn’t even chuckling. He claims that “we must aggressively defend a trademark” and “we have a legal duty to defend it against others
violating our trademark.”

Whoa, this is serious! “Red alert! Red alert! Man your battle stations boys, we have a marriage counselor in a crop duster puttering over Nashville that could wipe out our
entire operations in the Western Hemisphere!”

Part of me wants to fight this nonsense just out of principle but I’ve changed the wording to “The Teenage Counselor” on the website page because it’s not worth my time
to make an issue out of something so incredibly insignificant to my daily work with men, women, and couples who are struggling with real problems.

Lest I sound like a martyr-in-training, it’s not difficult to change one inconsequential word on a website. To quote my friend, Woody Cumbie, about dealing with petty
people, “It’s like having someone stone you with popcorn. It doesn’t hurt; it’s just really annoying.”

Personally, I don’t have any interest in constantly monitoring the web for trespassers on my brand and content, whether it be my website content, magazine articles, newspaper columns, or books. I’m too busy being happy that people like my stuff and honored that people come to me for help.

Neither do I have the time to be scouting the counseling landscape for “competition” that doesn’t matter or doesn’t even exist. I’m grateful for the spirit of collegiality in our Middle Tennessee counseling community. To fellow counselors in and beyond Tennessee, let us never be petty and territorial with one another. Let us be as secure and
generous with each other as we are with those we serve. A truism about being a counselor is that we are most successful when we are helping others succeed.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at ramonpresson@gmail.com. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson