Think of a young Eddie Van Halen practicing guitar six, seven, eight hours a day. Think of how hard it is for you to remain focused on a single task for, what, 30 minutes? So really let that EVH practice quantity sink in. Then consider that even after becoming the greatest guitar player in the world, Eddie didn’t relax. He would get off tour and seamlessly transition into ever more practice – with no time off. Nonetheless, he made mistakes while playing. Certainly during live shows when you only get one take, but EVH also missed notes on studio records where infinite retries are permitted.
Now think of yourself going into a hard conversation, how you want it to go perfectly. And then remember that hard conversations permit no real practice. Maybe you internally rehearse what you’ll say, but that’s about it – nothing close to the thousands of practice runs Eddie gets. Then further appreciate that hard conversations are hard, in part, because they are so unique. Like, it’s not every day you console someone who lost a loved one, or have to tell a partner you aren’t happy, or bring up the fact that you strongly disagree with a leader’s actions. So in addition to nonexistent practice, you are also without live experience to draw upon. In a sense, you are being thrown on stage with a vague idea of how the guitar works and expecting yourself to play Eruption.
Don’t be absurd. Lower your expectations. A lot. When you replay the conversation and long to have said something different, remember that you aren’t Eddie, that you couldn’t have practiced, that your total reps in such conversations are staggeringly small, and that even if none of that is true, that you are, indeed, Eddie Van Halen, errors would still find you.