3x5 Cards


I was speaking to a woman many years ago before cell phones became so popular.


Judy was complaining about a family member (I’ll call her Sandy) who had very caustic mannerisms when she called. Judy stated that Sandy's comments were rude and attacking and that she continued to hold her own and make the conversation uncomfortable. Judy claimed that every time the phone rang, she would wish it wasn't Sandy and that she felt humiliated after the call.


I told her about the principle of "3 by 5 cards" and how she should get cards, write the comment or question at the top of the card, and then take her time writing a strategic answer or response below it. Judy did this on as many sayings or situations as she could come up with. Together we strategically prepared her replies. She was to look at every question or comment that she could anticipate Sandy might say.

We worked on it for a while, and her instructions were to keep them near the phone so that when Sandy called, she could simply refer to her three-by-five cards. This would put her at ease, and when the caller ID displayed Sandy's name, she would be less hesitant to engage.


The idea was to stop the attacks and reply in a way where she felt confident and comfortable about the conversations. Sometimes individuals with this type of communication style are unaware of how challenging it is to interact with them. Judy's task was not to be rude, haughty, or controlling, but to have a conversation in order to save the relationship.


The goal is not to outwit or outsmart them, but to have the conversation you want to have rather than the one they want to have, which can be very uncomfortable.


An example of this would be Sandy asking if the kids are still causing problems. The answer that Judy and I came up with was a gently curious question such as “How come you ask?”


Then Judy’s charge was not to reply anything after Sandy answered but to issue an eloquent grunt such as “Huh or Hum?” in a very gentle response. Judy was then instructed to start the conversation with something she wanted to discuss rather than participate in what Sandy wanted. This can be done very kindly and gently, making Judy feel good about herself during those conversations.


This is not easy and requires practicing a kind response and moving to the conversation you would like to have instead of being led by Sandy’s aggressive approach.


This principle has been adopted in today's society by using it in any conversation with someone who has a strong opinion or question. Write down what you think they will say, ask, or do and prepare a strategic reply.


Another example of this is when Jesus was brought before Pilate and he asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews." Jesus replied, “You say it's true.” —Luke 23:1-4


I have found it important to be purposeful and prepared for these kinds of conversations.

When I can anticipate what someone might say or ask and prepare a reply, I'm much more capable of participating in a conversation that engages connection or at least minimizes disconnection.


Preparation sets you apart and guides you through intensely difficult communication styles.

Look for the blind spots.


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