A few years ago, I had to fire someone.
I had been dreading this. This person did not want to be fired. She wasn’t expecting to be fired.
She was fully capable of taking me down with her into a morass of self-pity and loathing.
She had done so before when I gently tried to push her towards the idea that she might do better in a different environment, that she would blossom like a flower in the right fertilizer…ok, I am bad at metaphor.
So I had to get in there and make my points succinctly before she swamped me with her stungun of emotional manipulation.
So I did what I always do. I threw on my cape, jumped into my invisible plane, and WONDER WENDY to the rescue! Actually, no…
I did what I always do when I am faced with having an unpleasant and yet necessary conversation. I started rehearsing.
I don’t mean I simply thought about the conversation, I mean I actually started talking to my, um, victim. Yes, out loud.
Personally, I think better when moving, so I walked around my office talking as though she were standing right there.
After a few times, I started recording it. Then I wrote it down-not word for word-but enough notes so I would be sure to hit the key points. And so I had created my script.
I practiced it a few more times; each time it was slightly different, but each time the script carried me through the conversation and out the other end…blissfully morass free.
I still wasn’t thrilled about having the conversation, but I was no longer filled with dread. I felt empowered, like when I have on my cape (MUST. LET. THIS. GO.)
And you know what? It went fine.
I did the same thing when I had to fire my boss. Yes, you might call that quitting.
But, he was a truly terrible boss and totally deserved to be fired.
I started planning for the conversation, thinking of the months of grievances, all the evil, underhanded, NASTY things he had done that caused him to lose his right to be my boss.
And then I realized, I didn’t want to do it.
Oh, I wanted to leave the man all right. And he deserved to be told what an idiot he was. But, I just didn’t want to get down in the mud with him. I did not want to have a knockdown, drag out fight.
What I wanted was to leave in as professional a manner as possible.
So I planned it out. I would tell him that I had been doing a lot of reflecting on my job, and that, while I had learned a tremendous amount and appreciated the opportunity, it was time for ONE of us to go.
But, (and this is important), I thought about what he would say to me and exactly how I would handle it.
I knew what a nasty piece of work he was and I was determined not to take any more abuse from him. NONE.
So, I rehearsed it, scripted it, rehearsed it more, and when we came to his firing, there were no surprises (for me, anyway).
I said my piece, he started to go off on me, “well, you know, I could tell…” when I cut him off with “You know, Mr. X, we are done with that now. But again, thank you so much for everything. G’bye.”
You know what is worse than firing someone? Cold calling people.
Calling up people who have never heard of you and trying to get them interested.
Oh yes. I did this for AGES.
As a legal recruiter in New York City, I had to cold call the exact same super credentialed young lawyers that every other recruiter in town was calling.
Even better, I was offering them, essentially, the exact same thing everyone else was-because jobs were rarely put out exclusively.
Yes, my company was, in theory, a differentiating factor, as was I. But the reality is, not so much.
I had to do this everyday. All day long. So there was a lot of rejection. A LOT.
So how did I not run mad?
Again, I rehearsed, made myself a script, planned out what their responses could be, both good and bad, and how I would handle each one.
I even planned for the worst case scenario.
What could they do? Say no to me?
Well, that was to be expected. Cold calling is about calling people over and over until you break their will
to live to reject you. In the meantime you get lots of no’s.
So, how would I handle someone saying no to me?
Well, I could ask to call back at a better time of day, check in when they actually had a need, find out who was a better person to talk to, send them some materials so they understood what the hell I was talking about, etc.
What other reactions could they have? Hang up on me? Unlikely.
Come to my house and kill my plants? Really, REALLY unlikely.
Working this out ahead of time took away the worry of what could happen.
Since I had already practiced being rejected, when it happened, not only did I know what to say, it actually didn’t bother me that much. I didn’t take it personally.
And it took away the fear.
But enough about me, let’s talk about you
You have something you want to say. Something you NEED to say. And it scares the bejeesus out of you. You need to:
- Speak at your nephew’s bar mitzvah. Did you know that public speaking is people’s number one fear? Number one. Ahead of DEATH. As Jerry Seinfeld said, “this means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” You would rather be dead? People, we can do better.
- Advise your call center co-worker he NEEDS to stop touching your elbow with his every time he answers the phone or you are going to FREAK OUT. Yes, well, I think this is self-explanatory.
- FINALLY stand your ground and refuse your sister-in-law’s ambrosia salad at Thanksgiving. Welcome her to the 21st century free of technicolor canned fruit and mini marshmallows. C’mon, you know you want to.
- Tell your neighbor you can totally hear her and her new boyfriend through the wall. They are keeping you up when you need your beauty sleep and, what exactly are they doing with that broccoli, anyway?!? Never mind, you don’t want to know. You just don’t want to hear it. At all. So let’s go tell her.
Wait, what? ME? I was just sitting here minding my own business, reading this…
Sorry, remember the promise to kick your butt? Well, it starts here. You were warned.
So, you are going to start rehearsing. You need help? No problem, let’s role play it together. Let’s go through all the good and bad stuff that could happen, including the worst of all possible cases. Ok, what if:
- Your neighbor answers the door stark naked, broccoli in hand.
- The 12 years olds get liquored up and charge the mike.
- You end up wearing a brand new ambrosia hat from your sister-in-law’s fall collection.
- Your co-worker says: no, I’m not moving my elbow, you move your damn elbow.
Well, then you’ll just have to accept it. Right. Wait, what? NO.
We just have to decide what your next move is going to be.
Well, no, I don’t know what it is either, but we’ll come up with something clever, I know we will. Trust me.
I know it scares you right now. That’s right now.
‘Cause, you know, we haven’t rehearsed yet. You have no idea how world dominating you are going to feel when you do it.
And therein lies the moral of our tale.
When you make a script, you rehearse and plan out responses, you crush rejection and whatever else goes bump in the night.
You let go of your fear.
You conquer the world.
Have you tried using this super tool? No, not my cape (no one touches my cape). The script! Why or why not?