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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter

Polite Exits

I share a very short story in Chapter 13: Legacy, about a change I made when I was 12. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a big deal but to a 12 year old girl trying to figure out who she was it was definitely a daunting decision. I solicited advice from my parents and was a little shocked when they told me that they wouldn’t decide for me. This is the earliest instance I can recall where they really made me find my way with minimal coaching.

Here is an excerpt from that section:

I had been a member of our school band playing the alto saxophone for two years, and I had been riding horses on the weekends. The horse scene was starting to get more serious for me. I began participating in shows, asking my parents for all of the fancy equipment required for that, and began riding on weekday evenings, too. I really enjoyed the band, and was doing well there, but horses were where my excitement lived.

I asked my parents what I should do. They didn’t tell me which activity to choose. They said that choice was mine alone to make. I ultimately decided to leave the band. My parents guided me through the reflection process, goal setting, and networking so I could secure car rides with friends to the barn since I was a bit too young to drive and both of my parents worked.

My parents also coached me on how to politely leave the band so I did not just disappear from my place one day. Change is an end as well as a beginning, most times. You must take care to handle both sides for it to be truly successful. Horses are still a part of my life, and I look for opportunities to mount up on just about every vacation. The way my parents taught my twelve-year-old self how to successfully make changes has been a model I’ve pulled from time and time again, especially the skill of polite exits. These skills of change are part of the legacy they will leave me with.

Since penning this section of the book, many of my readers have asked for more exit insight as it applies to successful change. I totally understand this request because, much like networking, exits don’t seem like a pivotal part of change. But certainly you’ve heard “every new beginning is also an ending?” Ending something is a delicate change that people tend to just muddle through.

We leave jobs, relationships, homes, towns, and countless other situations all the time. All of these endings can go one of three ways:

  1. Handled well where everyone feels acknowledged and all loose ends are wrapped up in a pretty bow of peace.

  2. Abrupt and unexplained because the person doing the leaving procrastinates/avoids handling the parting to the very last minute and they essentially run out the proverbial door without a second glance....We’d call this “popping smoke” in the military.

  3. Awkward because it’s just never openly addressed. The person leaving uses phrases like “I’m thinking about leaving...” or “I may be leaving in...” but never confirms it until they are just gone.

A mismanaged exit can end up feeling more like confrontation which leads to residual emotional baggage and uncertainty on all sides. Had I not told the band director definitively that I would not be coming back, she may have spent a few days assuming I’d rejoin, then a few days wondering what my timeline was, finally she would have become frustrated by my absence. She would have called my parents and gotten a straight answer from them. The director would have then moved on to train someone else on my parts still frustrated that I’d cost her time. My parents would have probably given me a very stern talking to. All in all, it wouldn’t have ended well for anyone.

My upfront answer about the change I was choosing, allowed everyone to smoothly move on. In a nutshell, that is what I mean by polite exits being part of change. A lot of wasted time, inflamed emotions, and awkwardness can be spared by being open with those effected by the changes you make.

In this article series, I share excerpts, insights and stories from my book, All About Change: How to Successfully Make Personal Life Changes. I hope you enjoyed this post — if you enjoyed it and want to connect you can reach me here via email or connect with me on social: Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. Also, you can also find my book on Amazon — here is the link to buy it: Amazon Kindle

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