In the business world, we’re taught to prepare in advance for difficult conversations. We practice answers to potential questions for a job interview. We plan what to say to an employee we need to critique. And we appreciate the importance of walking into a networking event armed with our “elevator speech.”
But what about preparing our words for difficult conversations in our personal lives? After all, those conversations matter just as much, if not more. And when you’re going through a personal stressor like divorce, having your words ready can make a big difference in how you feel about the conversation, and even about yourself.
Author Gretchen Rubin talks about this very thing in Episode 246 of her podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” According to Gretchen, when facing a tough situation, we should devise a couple sentences that briefly explain the facts of the situations, add the information you know people will want to know, and how you’re feeling about it. “By having our words ready, we make it much less exhausting to respond to the inevitable questions.” She even gives an example of a friend who was going through divorce and had these words ready: “You know John Doe and I are going through a divorce and it’s not what I would have chosen but now that it’s happening I feel a sense of freedom.” Thanks Gretchen, we couldn’t agree more!
It’s important to remember that there are no “right” words. They should be ones that work for you. They should capture the sentiment that you want to express to that person (or group of people, if you’re preparing a general statement you might use with any number of people).
True, having your words ready takes a little preparation. It means you need to spend some time thinking about what you want to say to your neighbor, your boss, or whomever you might encounter in your day. But that preparation - just like the prep you do before a job interview - lets you plan out the message you want to send, what you are and are not comfortable discussing, and even how to extricate yourself from a sticky situation.
Here are 3 advantages to having your words ready:
1. Having your words ready lets you set boundaries. If you find yourself needing a little privacy right now, plan your words in advance. If you find yourself stuck in a conversation you don’t want to have, here are a few quick one-liners you can use to shut down a conversation.
2. Having your words ready can stop you from saying something you might regret. Have you ever walked away from a conversation, or hit send on that email, and immediately rethought your words? I know I have! 🙋♀️🙋♀️🙋♀️ If you’ve beat yourself up with thoughts like, “Why did I say that,” “that didn’t come out how I meant it,” or “I hope I didn’t offend her,” you’re in good company. Having your words ready in advance will help you prepare so you only say what you want to say, even in those most awkward moments.
3. Having your words ready lets you feel more in control of the conversation. Pay close attention when a television reporter interviews a guest, and you’ll notice something: well-prepared interviewees answer the question they planned to answer, not necessarily the question asked of them. At times this might be frustrating (or worse, evasive), but the interviewee has put herself in control of the conversation, or at least of her side of it. It might be no big deal when you’re talking to a close friend, but for those times when you’re feeling a little more guarded, having your words ready will put you in the conversational drivers’ seat.
Want to have your words ready but need a little help in the process? We’ve got you covered! Divorce Scripts includes real words you can use in over 40 different divorce-related communications. Buy now and you’ll also receive our “Ten Power Words and Phrases” which are a great help for having your words ready. Think of them like “home base” - safe words you can use in almost any situation.