Emily’s Story

Divorce causes Emily to reconsider her understanding of Crucial Conversations and life.

Emily Hoffman, VP of Product Development and Master Trainer at VitalSmarts, has for years trained others on the process and value of having crucial conversations. But in 2016 an unexpected life event caused her to question whether she was qualified to do so.

“I’d spent my career writing and talking about Crucial Conversations,” Emily says, “teaching people how to have crucial conversations, telling people, ‘This will help your relationships get better.’ And there was this whole level of professional shame and hypocrisy for me about how I haven’t been able to step up to the skills we teach in ways I thought I would be able to.”

This sense of shame and hypocrisy resulted from Emily’s divorce. After eight years of marriage, she and her partner opted to part ways. Suddenly, Emily was faced with terrain she thought she’d never encounter. Crucial Conversations was, in her mind, supposed to prevent marital splits.

But Emily soon reconciled her doubts and found her conversational skills still vital. She applied them while traversing the divorce, finding resolution without attorneys, mediation, or nastiness. Months later, she stood on a stage before hundreds and said, “Crucial Conversations didn’t save my marriage; it saved my divorce.” She then presented to the audience a hopeful picture of life as a divorcee and single mom.

Emily couldn’t have known then that divorce is a lifestyle rather than an event. It’s true she had initially found peace by having crucial conversations. But it’s also true that months later she was again faced with self-doubt as her divorce became increasingly difficult to navigate. The kids, the finances, the schedules—everything required continued and mutual attention. And it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

“What is the problem,” Emily wondered? “Am I doing Crucial Conversations wrong? Am I cut out to teach these skills to others?”

Watch Emily relate in the video at top what she’s learned—and is continuing to learn—about Crucial Conversations and life. ◼

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The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the storyteller and do not reflect the view of VitalSmarts.

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