You sigh. It’s happening. Here I am (AGAIN) in a conversation where I literally cannot believe the words I’m hearing. Your shoulder blades slowly move towards each other and your breath gets just a little quicker, a bit more shallow.
It’s The Cringe. That moment when we’re stuck between speaking up or thinking things through, and neither option looks good. When our eyes want to roll all the way back, but we know that we’ve got to stay engaged if we want to have any chance at actually understanding what’s going on so we can figure out what to do next.
The Cringe can be incredibly uncomfortable to navigate. It can leave us feeling torn. But what are we supposed to do when we’re in a conversation and someone says something that insults, demeans, or dismisses a human being?
In the moment it can be difficult to think. To sort through all of the competing priorities, practice healthy boundaries, and decide what to do next.
One way to cut through all the pressure is to carve out 10 minutes in our everyday lives to identify ways we can respond the next time The Cringe starts. Here are three (3) scripts to help you get rolling.
Take a deep breath (to give ourselves a moment to process), and then say: I’m worried that the way we’re having this conversation is causing us to dismiss real human stories and ignore real human pain. Let’s pause for a second and then try again.
Look someone in the eye and say: Your perspective is important to me, and I’m not interested in living life stuck in my assumptions. So I need to ask you a question about what you just said to make sure I’m understanding you clearly.
Practice healthy boundaries and say: Having this conversation in this way doesn’t help me understand you. And it makes it harder for us to relate to human experiences that we haven’t lived. I’m interested in creating connection in hard conversations. So either we need to change our approach, or we’ll need to revisit this conversation at another point in time.
Being in a difficult spot in a challenging conversation isn’t an easy path to walk, but we are capable of finding a way through it. One that upholds human dignity and healthy boundaries.
Take 10 minutes today to think through ways you’d like to respond the next time you find yourself in a Cringe moment. Preparing to respond with intention and clarity in advance can help us feel more prepared (and less blindsided).
Because the truth is that when The Cringe begins we still have the power to make a choice about what to do next.