About a year and a half ago my life blew up. Both in an epic way and also a private way.
My husband walked out and I unexpectedly found myself looking for a new place to live and getting divorced… while still trying to do the things I typically do in my life like running businesses. Honestly, I was pretty non-functional for a few months (and am grateful for my Breaking Even team for pulling my weight for awhile while I melted down) and felt a range of emotions that was very similar to how I felt when my father died.
There are certain personal life events (say, going through a divorce) or business events (say, going through a legal battle) that you have to manage communications about.
I am sure I could have handled my own communications better but I have learned some things, from my own situation and others, that I can pass on about how to deal with this online.
Note: I get that I am a very open book person… and some of you are less so or not at all. I think this post is still helpful, wherever you are on the communication spectrum.
Think of how you want people to help you.
I know this seems like a silly first thing to think of but what you’ll find is that most people are good and want to help. And if you don’t give them something specific, they are going to think of their own ways to help you, which you may or may not appreciate.
Asking someone to pick up your kid from daycare or leaving a positive online review (or whatever you’d appreciate) isn’t selfish. It gives that energy people have somewhere positive to go. I asked for help finding housing, for help moving, even for dinner occasionally. I feel like the people I asked were the opposite of resentful. Asking family, friends, and customers for help isn’t a weakness but a strength. And you’ll know it once you try it, which I hope you don’t have to do anytime soon.
Get ahead of it, if it makes you feel better.
Going through a divorce means you find yourself in the rumor mill. And you have two options: you can let things circulate or you can get ahead of it.
If you want to let the rumor mill do its work, that is a fine way to go. “Let people talk,” and keep doing your thing.
But as a direct person, I really wanted to get ahead of it. An elevator speech will help with this.
Mine: “Derrick recently left me. I’m doing ok but currently looking for someplace to live if you hear of anything.” (See how I combined elevator speech with asking for help there?)
The elevator speech helps you manage one on one interactions and feel better doing so.
If you are comfortable and want to take ‘getting ahead of it’ a step further, a blanket social media statement will also help you really start cooking with gas.
This is how I handled it:
Perfect? No. But good enough.
And in case you want another idea, here’s how Elizabeth Gilbert handled her divorce declaration on her Facebook business page:
We could argue that, despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s post being a much more mobile friendly one, sharing it made absolute sense since she wrote a book about marriage, whereas my marriage has nothing to do with my brand. My opinion though is the right thing to say, and whether you say anything at all, is an individual judgement call.
I do estimate that my Facebook post saved me about 400 uncomfortable conversations I would have had to have over the last 2 years. In other words, it was worth it to me.
Assume no one knows because it makes things easier.
Even when you ‘get ahead of it’, I can’t tell you how loaded the ‘How are you?’ question was for me for awhile (and even now when someone I don’t know well asks me).
But consider these two scenarios: a room full of people who know NOTHING about your situation and a room full of people who know SOMETHING about your situation. Wouldn’t you prefer the room that knows nothing? I do and so that’s how I treated everyone who asked me ‘How are you?’
Practice your answer to ‘how are you’ or ‘how’s business?’ as if the person you are talking to knows nothing. The ‘how are you’ answer may be your elevator speech or something else. If you are caught off guard, you may end up crying at the bank or something.
It does get easier every time you say it though. Promise. Just keep it short, stick to facts, and be honest about how you are feeling.
Frame positively and get help doing it.
No one wants to be around a giant bummer, online or off. If you can frame something positively, do it.
If you need help making sure you’re not a giant bummer, have a friend (or hey, even us) read your public social media posts, blog posts, email newsletters, etc. before they go out for awhile. Even when I am not in the middle of a divorce, I can be hugely self deprecating without meaning to. Having a company policy that someone else reads copy before it gets published has been a good way to us to police ourselves in that respect.
So I once went to a marketing conference that had a panel of small business owners. The owner of a local drive-in was one of them. She told stories about her business and personal struggles and rather than making me think less of her, it actually allowed me to respect her more. And while I don’t remember her name or story details, I still remember positive associations about the Saco Drive-In. 🙂
Don’t pretend you aren’t struggling if you are, or vice versa actually. People can smell it a mile away, even on the internet. Authentic is not guttural (see ‘positive framing’ above), just truthful.
Vent privately (or keep the negative as unpublic as possible).
No matter who you are, you need to vent. Get a therapist. Spread your vents out over some trustworthy, vault-like friends. Write in your diary. Go to a retreat.
Me, I got a divorce coach, very accidentally. This gave me someone to text when I had a petty thought, or someone to call crying when needed. I loved that this person was completely unconnected to my daily life and had no stake in anything. I will be forever grateful he came into my life when he did and hope to return the favor to someone else someday.
In other words, depending on how you want to interact with your negative thoughts, there is a way to privately do it.
Take the perks.
People will bring you booze, or give you a project you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Or something that feels like a benefit you’re receiving solely because of what you’ve been through.
I spent the first month feeling bad about this. Then I started identifying “divorce perks” as they came in and acknowledging the goodness of the people extending them. And it felt awesome. Seriously, in this truly awful time in your life, take the good.
I hope none of you reading this are in the middle of a crappy situation… but if you are, I hope this gives you encouragement that you can not only manage how other people see it but in turn, manage how you do as well.
Onward and upward. You’ve got this. I’ve had several people tell me they were ‘jealous’ of my year. You know what that is, folks? Marketing.