6. How To Prepare for Difficult Conversations

How to prepare for difficult conversations, SaraEllen, spiritual mentor for professional women

Do you know how to prepare for a difficult conversation?

Are you conflict-averse? Do you go for days, weeks, or years avoiding difficult conversations you know you need to have?

Despite all of our education and badassery, many of us educated professional women have no real clue how to prepare for a difficult conversation. And despite our best intentions, it often comes out wrong.

Smart women usually struggle with how to prepare for difficult conversations because of how they are raised and conditioned.

Many smart, educated women struggle with difficult conversations, simply because they are in the habit of discounting their emotions and are afraid what the other person will do, think or say.

Here is an exercise adapted from bits and pieces of the work of Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference, Kasia Urbaniak, author of Unbound, a Woman’s Guide to Power, and Master Coach Brooke Castillo of the Life Coach School. (If you want to go deeper with tools and teachings on negotiation and power dynamics, I encourage you to read the excellent source material from those three authors/teachers, or sign up for my Power Bootcamp class that starts mid-January 2022.)

I massaged those fine teachers’ methods and my own experience into something that would work for my clients. I came up with this process, designed specifically for conflict-avoidant feminine energy women.

To celebrate the re-launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away a reMarkable tablet to 1 lucky listener who follows, rates, and reviews the show. The raffle will take place March 31, 2022. I want your honest feedback so I can create an awesome show that provides tons of value. Click here to learn more about the contest and how to enter.

I’ll be announcing the winner on the show in an upcoming episode!

What You Will Discover:

  • Why smart women often have the toughest time dealing with confrontation and having difficult conversations.
  • Why it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves.
  • How you benefit from preparing for a difficult conversation even if you aren’t ready to have it.
  • How to prepare for difficult conversations — using your journal or a trusted friend — so that you give yourself the best opportunity to handle it the way you want.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Resources for You:

Full Episode Transcript:

I’m SaraEllen Hutchison and this is the Feminine Energy Feminist podcast, episode number Six: How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations.

Welcome to Feminine Energy Feminist, a podcast for professional women who are ready to tap into their feminine energy, so they can be happier at work and in their personal lives. It’s time to redefine what a professional woman is in those historically male-dominated fields that don’t always embrace the needs and talents of women.

I’m your host, SaraEllen Hutchison. I’m a life coach and a practicing lawyer. I’ll help you learn how to embrace who you are as a woman; body, mind, and spirit, so you can be more powerful in your career and fulfilled in your life. So, if you’re ready not just to be a high achiever, but get what your soul wants too, let’s proceed.

Episode 6: How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations

Welcome back to the Feminine Energy Feminist, Episode 6. Today I might sound a little bit different because I’m on the road with a different setup. But it will be all right, because we are going to come down from the clouds we were in last week with all that exciting stuff about meditation and manifestation, and we’re going to talk about how to deal with something we could all get better at, that few relish doing, but that we can’t avoid forever: having difficult conversations.

I came up with a powerful exercise to prep for a difficult conversation that can help you. But first, we have to understand why many of us highly educated feminine-energy women are such badasses at literally everything but confrontation? Why do smart women chicken out when it comes time to ask their partner to take out the trash or pick up his socks, or something more consequential than that, like whose family are we going to visit for the holidays? Why do smart women chicken out when it comes time to negotiate their salary, or find it somewhat intimidating to haggle with street vendors on their travels and feel awkward and embarrassed about such interactions?

It comes back to how we are conditioned: growing up, in many of our households and in most of the education system, we are rewarded for doing what’s asked of us. Partly nature, partly nurture, we learn that things go a little easier for us when people are happy with our behavior or our performance. And so many of us wind up finding the thought of 10 minutes of a difficult conversation itself so scary that we will endure years of things we can’t stand, or leave relationships without asking for things to change, giving everyone else whiplash, saying, “but she seemed so happy….”

That chicken-out feeling, that fear or anxiety or dread, as we know, comes from some thought or belief we are having. Usually when we are avoiding a difficult conversation, we are believing that preserving the status quo in the relationship, either professional or personal, is more important than our own needs.

And energetically, if you really tune into what your body is sensing when you consider having the conversation and notice you’re filled with dread or fear, there is usually a contract you feel bound to uphold. I’m not talking contracts like where “Comcast gets your kidneys,” to quote Stephen Colbert.

I’m talking energetic agreements between you and other people that keep you feeling irrationally, emotionally, energetically stuck doing things you don’t want to do or feeling afraid to set yourself free or be forthcoming with how you really think and feel. If you feel really, really stymied from having a difficult conversation with a certain person or certain type of person, or in a certain recurring situation, it can be really powerful to get the assistance from someone who can do somatic or energetic work.

The thoughtwork process I’m about to share with you is designed to get you in the beginning stages of really getting into your body and knowing just how you really FEEL about the issue that you need to bring up, which is something many smart women avoid.

See, many smart women want to avoid seeming whiny, bitchy, demanding, needy, or emotional, so they try to rationalize why they want or don’t want something. And when they get face to face with the person with whom they are having the difficult conversation, then they stammer. Or go on and on. Or confuse the other person, especially if he’s a man. And then the man will be very uncomfortable, pick a fight, ask you to get to the point, or try to weasel his way out of changing anything.

If you do this exercise I’m about to share, it doesn’t require you to then go around and confront everybody. Or even anybody. This is not a radical honesty exercise. I’m all about being prepared, and not just winging it.

And you have every right to then make the choice to not ask for things to change, but it’s best to be doing so while unflinchingly honest with yourself about what you are choosing and why.

Sometimes when we do have difficult conversations, real conversations, the relationship does end. Sometimes we don’t necessarily burn a bridge, we just make it pretty darn clear we are never going to cross that bridge again. Sometimes we don’t even need to have the conversation, we just need to be honest with ourselves. And sometimes when we get really anchored and clear, what used to feel like a scary confrontation no longer feels like one.

A few years ago, a colleague turned me onto this fabulous book, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. And while I found all the principles spot on, I had to figure out my own way to really embody it. Later, when I dove deeper into feminine energy studies and became familiar with the work of Brooke Castillo and Kasia Urbaniak, everything came together in the package I’m about to present to you. I am very grateful for all three of them as teachers, who greatly informed my development of the process I’m about to share. Ok, so here’s the exercise. It’s called W.T.T.C.S., which is short for “worst thing they could say.” You are going to imagine what is the worst thing the other person could say, and you’re going to practice confronting them the way a guy would, and the way a woman completely in her feminine energy would.

You can do this exercise in your journal or with a trusted friend. These are imaginary conversations, where you are WAY more vulnerable and laying more of your cards on the table than you might in real life. The reason why you do this exercise in your journal (or with a partner) is so that you are overprepared. You are pre-experiencing the thoughts you’d have if you heard the other person say this or that, and handling the feelings those thoughts would generate ahead of time, so you are not reacting to your emotions on the spot.

First, access your feminine energy. Even the childish feminine energy. Pretend you’re Bridget Jones and this is your diary.

Each of your feeling statements needs to express an emotion. You are arguing your side of the issue in feeling terms. I know this sounds crazy to many of you who don’t think it’s becoming of a grownup. Do it anyway. Then, you follow it with the worst thing they could say, and your response, that mirrors back the core truths of the other person. The basic format is, I want X because it will make me feel Y. Or, when you X, I feel Y. I want you to stop X, because it will make me feel Y. You get the idea.

For example, let’s pretend you work for some organization. You are going to ask your boss for Fridays off because you’re a violinist, a pretty good one, and you just got offered a chair in your town’s volunteer symphony orchestra. You might be really afraid to ask for something that seems so unrelated to the mission of the organization. So, you’ve been avoiding the conversation. But it needs to happen soon, because they’re pressing you to let them know if you’re in or out.

In your journal, you say, “I want Fridays off to go be part of the symphony, because it will make me feel valued and appreciated, which will make me feel loyal to this organization.”

What’s the worst thing your boss could say?: “No. I can’t give you that. Don’t you know how much I do already value and appreciate you? And I give you a lot of flexibility, and if I gave you that, then everybody else would ask for Friday off. No.”

You: “I hear you saying that the flexibility you so generously provide is something you’d like me to appreciate more fully, and I do. We both value that, and that’s so good to know we’re on the same page. I still want Fridays off to be part of the symphony, because having a well-rounded life makes me a better employee more likely to stay long term.”

WTTCS: “No, I wish I could take Fridays off too, but honestly, the turnover with the support staff is part of why I am saying no, so it’s all hands on deck. I think I might even need you on Saturdays too.”

You: “Turnover is disappointing, isn’t it. I am reassured hearing that you are so devoted to the organization that you are foregoing some of your free time for the cause. But if I’m active in the community as part of the symphony, that’s like free marketing for our mission here.”

Notice that when you imagine all their arguments for why they are going to continue to disagree with you, you make yourself aware of things you already sense are true for the other person, without the pressure of the uncomfortable real-time conflict and their statements catching you off guard. You get to mine them for gold without having to have the conflict. Then when you get in the real boxing ring, you’ve already rehearsed the hardest part: how it will feel when they say no. We know this from the Model — the worst part of anything is how it feels, and not the actual circumstances.

You can keep going as long as you want until it feels complete.

Then, try it in your masculine energy. This is where you leave how you feel out of it altogether, and you ask for what you want like a guy would. Literally pretend this is like some western movie and you’re some dude walking into some saloon all tough-talking. You’re simply expecting them to give it to you because you exist.

For example: You: “I’m going to start taking Fridays off to play in the symphony. Just wanted to let you know why you won’t be seeing me in the office on Fridays now.”

WTTCS: “Hell no, who do you think you are?”

You: “Compared to anyone else you could get, a bargain, because look at all the free marketing you’re going to get with me hobnobbing with all the town’s most important people who donate to the symphony and should know more about what we do.”

WTTCS: “It sounds like you care more about music than our mission.”

You: “You want people who are dedicated. You’re forgetting the time I pulled two all-nighters to complete that big project just last month. I’ve earned this.”

Be over-the-top with the masculine energy version. Summon your inner Wolf of Wall Street. Have fun. Doing so will access valuable information that is already inside your brain that an ordinarily conflict-averse woman doesn’t even look at.

Finally, look at everything that you wrote.

First, what are their best arguments? Out of all the WTTCS, which one is scariest? Is that a real fear or just what your brain is coming up with to keep you from honoring yourself? Fear is a big reason why people avoid taking action. What’s the ultimate result if you don’t have the conversation? Only you will have the answer.

Next, what are your best arguments for why you should get your way? Say the thought aloud, “I deserve _____ because _____,” and then access the positive emotions that come up. Even if one conversation doesn’t resolve it, even if it’s awkward, and even if you don’t get what you want out of it, how can you decide ahead of time that you win no matter what?

Once you have faced your fears through the above exercise, and anchored in the exact feeling that comes from knowing you deserve what you want, your Actions — your Alignment — your vibe, your body language, how you show up — become congruent with a woman who is willing to admit to herself what she wants. From there, it is easier to get to that place where you feel you deserve and can safely expect what you want without the world ending if you don’t win every time. You become a woman who is not “confrontational” in the sense that she is combative, but who can confront the truth head on and not run away from it.

I have some exciting news.

I am going to be teaching a class called Power Bootcamp, and it starts in January. The Power Bootcamp teaches you new communication, emotional and energetic skills to counteract generations of patriarchal conditioning so you can get what you want.

Go to https://lawyergoddess.com/power-bootcamp/ to learn more.

Second: I’m going to raffle off just one remarkable tablet to one lucky listener who follows, rates, and reviews the show. For a chance to win, please do your review before the end of 2021, because I will be randomly selecting one winner Jan. 1.

Visit lawyergoddess.com/raffle to learn more about the raffle and how to enter. I’ll be announcing the winner on the show in an upcoming episode. Have a happy holiday and a great week!

Thanks for listening to Feminine Energy Feminist. If you want more information or the resources from the podcast, visit lawyergoddess.com/podcast. See you next week.

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