A while back, I spent a wonderful weekend in Saginaw, Michigan, with some really great…
Tip of the Week
Tip: Stick to the script!
I may have touched on this principle in the past, but if so, it bears repeating because it is one of the most important concepts I have ever learned in my life. I call it, “Stick to the script.”
From time to time, all of us get in situations or conversations that are uncomfortable. It may be with a spouse, a child, a co-worker, or possibly even with someone that we don’t know that well. The situation escalates because issues arise or because the environment creates a bad climate. During any of those scenarios, it is always best to stick to the script. Let me explain what I mean.
Anytime you know that you are going to be in an uncomfortable dialogue with someone, it is best to plan ahead and develop three to five sentences that sum up your position on that subject. As you are thinking through that process, I encourage you, implore you, even beg you to write those sentences down on a 3 x 5 card so that you remember exactly what you want to say. Keep them brief, succinct and to the point. Then, when the situation arises, just stick to the script. Say what you know clearly states your point, but is not in a manner that is attacking, unkind, or emotionally charged.
Now, I know that what I am about to tell you, you are not going to believe or want to do, but trust me, I have seen it work time and again.
Once you have a well-thought-out script, written it down and hopefully memorized it, stick to it when you get in that uncomfortable conversation. If you are on the phone, you might want to simply read your script straight from your 3 x 5 cards starting with your first sentence and ending with sentence 5. You will have stated your position fully. After they give their response, repeat sentence 4 and 2, for example, and then wait for them to answer. When you have heard what they have to say, look at your cards and choose your response from what you’ve written. But, do not deviate from your script! If you do, you will likely get “sucked in” or trapped by the other person and say something you will later regret.
When my daughter Esther was younger and still living at home, she had a curfew of 11:00 o’clock. One evening she came in at 11:30. While I was waiting for her to come home, I developed my script and memorized it. When she came in, I asked, “What time did you say you would be home?” to which she responded, “Eleven o’clock.” “What time is it now?” I asked. She said, “11:30.” I said, “Is the time now later than you said you would be home?” She answered, “Yes, it is.” “Why didn’t you keep your word?” was my response. Then I made the fatal mistake! I deviated from my script and said, “You NEVER come home on time!” Well, that was all it took. She replied, “Never? I have NEVER been home on time? In the history of the world, I’ve never come home on time?” And, it went downhill from there! You see, everything was going fine until I accidentally deviated from my script.
Now, I am not suggesting that we should have plastic, artificial relationships with each other. What I’m saying is that life does not often work well when we “shoot from the hip” and do not have well-thought-out words. Some of the greatest negotiating in the world takes place between people who have thought out what they want to say AND, even more importantly, what they do not want to say.
I know that some of you are thinking, “Dr. Rohm, seriously, if I just read sentence 1, 3 and 5; and then 4 and 2; and then 3 and 1; the other person is going to know that I am just simply following a script and think that I do not demonstrate respect for our conversation.” I am here to tell you that is not the case! They will no more recognize it than the man in the moon – because they will likely be speaking emotionally, irrationally, and “from the hip.” They will not have thought out what they want to say and they will soon paint themselves into a corner they will regret. Not too long ago a friend of mind had to let one of his employees go. He told me it could have gotten nasty very quickly. But, because he was able to stick to his script, it ended on a good note.
We are not trying to hurt other people and we are not trying to manipulate other people when we follow this advice. We are trying to set our own healthy boundaries and stay within the guidelines of what we know we are trying to accomplish in our life, in our business, in our family, and for our own mental well-being.
This is not a Tip for children. They pretty much say whatever they think. This is for mature adults who know how to hold their emotions in check by thinking through what they want to say and not speaking unkind or harsh words to other people. If you will practice this Tip two or three times, it will become a regular part of your life in every relationship and connection you have with other people. I guarantee it!
Tip: Stick to the script!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm