Rehearsing Conversations

We’ve all done it, haven’t we?  We go over and over the conversation in our head.  If I say this, and she says that, then I’ll say this.  Over and over and over—ad nauseam.  So here’s the real question:  “Does practicing or rehearsing the conversation actually help?”   Frankly, I don’t think it does.

Imagine for a moment that you have a conflict or problem with someone and you need to talk with them about it.  Sure you want to get clear on what you want out of the conversation.  You also want to have your facts and persuasive points lined up.  Okay, fine.  But this isn’t you being a lawyer presenting a case to a jury.  This is you trying to have a conversation with your spouse, boss, co-worker, teenage son, best friend—whoever.    One definition of ‘conversation’ says: the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.  So it’s not a lecture, right?  It’s a conversation, an exchange.

What we all tend to do is start nattering about it in our head. Personally, I think what all that fussing actually does is  guarantee that it will NOT go the way you rehearsed it.  I don’t have scientific evidence of this, but I have lived a long time and nattered over many a conversation—and my conclusion is that they NEVER go the way I rehearsed or planned.  I have several explanations for this:

  • The “entity” that is in charge of this stuff is fickle.  Once a perspective has been brought up and played with, the “universe” is bored with that result.  It’s not going to actually happen the way you rehearsed it.  Personally I have had this result be so consistent in my life that I’ve decided it’s an actual law of the universe—after all gravity still works whether or not you are aware of it.  So does this: if you’ve played it out in your head, it will happen differently when you actually do it.  Maybe we could call it “the law of unique occurrences“—the only thing that seems consistent is that it will not be the way we imagined it.  You may be snickering at this idea, but I’m guessing you’ve experienced it!
  • All the rehearsing has us focusing on what we are going to do and say—not how we are going to be in the situation.  We all know that there is much more going on in any exchange with another person than what we say.  There is tone, posture, attitude, and a bunch of other cues and signals that we are sending and receiving.  What I’m referring to when I say we want to consider how to be in the conversation is the compilation of attitude, tone, presence. Saying that a different way, it’s “how we want to show up”.  And an interesting secret in all this is that how you show up is likely to be absorbed and reflected  back to you.  For an easy example, if you come on strong and lecture the person, how do you think they are going to respond?

The point is not that you shouldn’t prepare for a challenging or difficult conversation.  The point is to spend more time considering how you want to behave and react in the situation and less going over and over the possibilities.  Think about it.  If you are clear about the qualities you want to embody in a challenging conversation, then you really can’t be derailed, can you?  I don’t mean the other person will necessarily agree, what I mean is the conversation will be an exchange of ideas.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I have been using this concept with clients for years, and that I have a tool for it.  I call it the Focus Tool.  It’s just a one page guide to help you get clear on your goals, the attributes you want to bring, where the boundaries are, and how you’ll know if you succeeded in bringing all that to the conversation.

If you’d like a copy of the tool, or to chat with me about it just contact me.  It feels to me like many of us are nattering excessively these days, so I’m happy to offer the Focus Tool to you at no charge.  Consider it my contribution to creating more effective results in challenging conversations.

Ka-ching

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you want to take me up on the offer of the Focus Tool form give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

5 thoughts on “Rehearsing Conversations

  1. Michael Helwig

    Well I certainly agree with this. I say this, they say that-except they never do say that.

  2. Loretta

    Yes I was snickering a bit! Maybe you should send me the Focus Tool as I talk with all these mothers of teen agers. It never goes how I hope.

    Keep up the good words.

  3. Berry

    Hi Shell, I like your post and thoughts about our difficult conversations! I agree with you that a focus on how we want to show up is valuable (in any conversation btw) and I do think there is value in thinking about the message we want to convey and the outcome we would like to reach with the conversation, while being prepared that things might go differently than envisioned.
    In addition, I think it is also valuable to think about the other person. What may the impact be of what I am going to say, how I will say it…what are their triggers that I need to be aware of (which goes back to the impact of my behavior and words on the other)? The mutuality piece is often overlooked in tough conversations. I hope you have an item in your focus tool to let people think about their impact on the ohter, as part of the preparation. I’m currently working on the development of an online course on “your toughest conversation” and your thoughts are inspiring. Thanks! Warmly, Berry

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