Over the years, I’ve presented several hundred case studies for discussion in the sessions I conduct. The thing that fascinates me is the way that participants in those case studies tell me, and the group, what they would do instead of actively participating in the role-play. But telling everyone what you would do is not the same as doing it. Inevitably, I have to stop them and say, “Wait a minute. Don’t tell me what you would say. Say it. What are the exact words you would use?” That’s where it gets awkward, and where the learning really takes place.
The same thing is true in real life. It’s easy to offer an opinion of what you would do. But dealing with the angry customer, troublesome employee, or difficult colleague is a whole different matter. Over the years, I’ve been faced with a host of these situations, just like anyone else. I’ve discovered that the key to a successful outcome is rehearsal. Don’t just think about what you’re going to say. Rehearse it out loud to a friend, spouse, colleague or whomever is willing to play along. This gives you the chance to refine the words and clarify your desired outcome. It ensures that you are not derailed by the other person’s comments or reactions.
The worst thing in the world is confronting a difficult situation and hearing the wrong words coming out of your mouth because you didn’t prepare. Have you lost a customer due to a slip of the tongue? Have you been out-argued by an employee you know is working the system? Have you been talked out of firing someone by the person being fired? Yeah, me too.
The difference between I would and I will costs time, treasure and reputation. Isn’t it worth a few extra minutes to prepare?