Dr. Kim Burns

“Let me think about that and get back to you.”

That’s interesting. Let me look into that.”

“Let me look at my calendar before I commit to that.”

Personal scripts are phrases you have developed, and practiced in advance, that you use when you need to say something but you are unprepared to address the circumstance you find yourself in. They are your go-to words when you are surprised, can’t address an issue, or need more information to respond. Personal scripts are your friend.

Gunsalus urges leaders to practice personal scripts so they are available when they need them.

In The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, C. K. Gunsalus promotes the use of personal scripts in all kinds of situations that administrators find themselves in. Personal scripts “can make a big difference in how interactions unfold” (p. 55). This is true especially during conflict, because they can help you react with less emotion.

I remember serving on my first search committee and was horrified when a colleague wanted information on the confidential process. I asked my supervisor for advice. She offered her personal script, “I am not at liberty to discuss the work of the search committee.” It was super helpful to borrow her words and tweak them to become my own.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many times Gunsalus encouraged practicing your talking points. For instance, she noted a colleague who practices her opening sentence before she leads a contentious meeting.

As an introvert who is more comfortable writing than speaking, I often practice what I plan to say in high-stakes situations. For tough conversations, I will often write out my talking points ahead of time. This helps me organize my thoughts and feel prepared. We don’t talk about tips such as this in leadership development, and we should.

What personal scripts do you use? Do you practice saying them?

Email me at drkimburns@gmail.com or connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Have a great week, friends.

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P.S. Links to books are my affiliate link with Bookshop.org.

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