Friday, December 28, 2012

The "I'm leaving..." talk

Many of you have been asking lately about the actual conversation in which you break the news of your leaving to your dad/mother/family member. I know the thought of this talk turns your stomach, and I hope this post helps calm that by providing some guidelines around dos-and-don'ts.

But before I begin, I want to take a minute to talk about the emotions surrounding this talk. The emotions — which by this time are high (probably on both sides) — make keeping calm and staying cool almost an impossible task. Plus, at these levels, they tend to beat rational thinking. You are dreading the talk because deep down you know that emotions will probably take over, preventing you from thinking straight and getting your message out clearly. You are worried that you will end up sounding like a child... And really, by letting the emotions take control, you are sitting the child in the driver's seat. And that's never a good idea! So how do we sit the adult behind the wheel?

I put together this short list of things to keep in mind to help focus your thoughts, and by that reduce your stress levels:
  1. Relieve some of the stress by preparing your message in advance.
    Sure, you've been thinking about this talk from the get-go, but you've been thinking about it with a lot of emotion, which needs to be removed from the equation. Make sure your message is concise and to-the-point. Writing it down beforehand helps, as having it prepared in your head is another way to avoid letting the child take over. (If you feel that the stress or emotion will get the better of you, then by all means, read it from the paper if you think it will help.)
  2. Don't use feelings to legitimize your actions.
    Saying things like "I feel like I am being smothered" opens the conversation up to debate as each side will try to explain/retort the feeling/emotion (remember, feelings cannot be rationalized). Instead, keep it simple and straightforward: "Working in the business is not for me anymore. I have decided to leave". With that in mind, you should know that there is really no need to legitimize your actions at all. You have decided to leave — for whatever reasons — and you are letting them know.
  3. Don't cast blame.
    Don't say things like "it's your fault — you never appreciated the work I did". This will start an argument in which each side will try to prove (or avoid) the blame, taking the attention away from the real reason you are having this talk in the first place: you're leaving. (Remember: you do not need to legitimize you actions; casting blame is a form of legitimization.)
  4. As hard as it is, be sympathetic.
    The family you are leaving, has not prepared for this talk like you have. This could be a punch in the face to them (and could be out of nowhere). Allow them to exhibit their emotions and remember, they are just people overcome with emotions — they don't think rationally. Another reason, why your message should be very clear and lacking feelings or blame.
  5. Expect the best, plan for the worst.
    This talk can go anywhere from deep sadness to bitter anger, each leading to different outcomes. Be prepared for a "storm" and understand that there will be plenty of time — once you've all calmed down — to talk more. For now, for this specific talk, your only worry is to convey the message that you are leaving.
  6. There are no victors or losers.
    This isn't a battle. You do not need to win/beat/defeat your family member. There is no need to be right. You are here to deliver the message that you are leaving and you want to do it in a way that will cause the least damage. Understanding that this is not a fight goes a long way to calm the emotions.
The most important thing though, is that you show up yourself and deliver the message. In the long run, it will have a long-lasting effect on your self-esteem.

Stay focused, stay calm. You're almost there...


  1. I've been reading your posts. It really helped me. I will tell my family after 20 days. I've been planning this for a year. Thanks to you, my courage added up. I'm leaving my family and the family business. But the most difficult of all is to leave my brother who suffers from a mental illness. I realized that he is not my responsibility but still, I must help (he is the love of my life). Before I leave, I will make sure that everything is organized so they will not think that I left them behind. This is the hardest decision in my life. I hope I have the courage to face this. Thank you for your insights.

  2. @Anonymous Thanks for your kind words! I am happy to hear that I have helped in some way. I would love to hear more about your specific challenge. If you would like to share, please send me an email to theleaver [curly-thing]

  3. @The Leaver I would like to share, but I could not understand your email address. Thank you for your feedback. and Happy New Year!:)

  4. @Anonymous sorry about that! I am trying to prevent the email address being picked up by spam bots (so I "masked" the at sign). The address is: theleaver [@-sign]
    Looking forward to hearing from you!

  5. Thank you! This is exactly the advice I need. I have been battling with leaving the family business for a couple years now, but has come to a head as of last week, so now the journey of "leaving" begins for me. Thank you for your blog. It is encouragement much needed.

    1. @Anonymous, you are very welcome! Lots of luck with your journey! Feel free to reach out at:

  6. Just so you know. i plan to leave a business working for my longtime best friend. He's not family but pretty dang close. I'm not mad I just want to move on. I found your site because I am struggling with "the talk". Thank you for your openness and your website.

    1. Hello @anonymous and thanks for your comment. Happy you found the blog helpful to you. Feel free to reach out to me at:

  7. I've just stumbled on your blog today and this is so helpful! I've worked for my family since I graduated from college and although I love what I do and appreciate all of the advantages this has afforded me, I just don't know if I can do this anymore. My mom passed away a few months ago and my Dad is the boss of the business and a CONTROL FREAK/emotional manipulator. I think all these years of being the boss has gone to his head LOL. I am planning on staying here until my youngest graduates High School (6 years from now) and I'm not sure what else I want to do career-wise but I'm gonna start coming up with a plan B. Your blog gives me hope! Thank you!!

    1. Hi there, and thanks for your comment!

      Sorry to hear about your mother. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at: I'd be happy to hear more of your story and provide advice.

  8. Excellent post I have 'the talk' tomorrow! Nervous but focused, your blogs helped!