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Crucial Conversations

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler


Crucial Conversation…
A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

When we face crucial conversations, we can do one of three things.
  1. We can avoid them.
  2. We can face them and handle them poorly.
  3. We can face them and handle them well.

Strong relationships, careers, organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power -- the ability to talk about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics.

The "One Thing" - Dialog

At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information. People openly and honestly express their opinions, share their feelings, and articulate their theories. They willingly and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial and unpopular. When people feel comfortable speaking up and meaning does flow freely, the shared pool can dramatically increase a group's ability to make better decisions.

ACT 1: Two Hearts Beat As One, U2
  • Start with the Heart. (How to stay focused on what you really want.) Start with your own heart and focus on your own dialogue. Begin discussions with the right motives and stay focused no matter what happens – stick to your goals, keep composure under fire. Remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself. Connecting with another person begins with yourself.
    • Questions to Ask Yourself
      • What do I really want for myself?
      • What do I really want for others?
      • What do I really want for the relationship?
      • How would I behave if I really wanted these results?

ACT 2: U Got the Look, Prince
  • Learn to Look (How to notice when safety is at risk.) Don’t get so caught up in the conversation that you fail to notice what is happening around you and how others are responding. Just what is your style under stress? Often when under stress and in the middle of a crucial conversation, we actually do exactly opposite of what will work.
    • Watch for three conversation killers...
      • The moment a conversation turns crucial
      • Signs that people don't feel safe
        • Silence - withholding meaning from the pool (masking, avoiding, and withdrawing)
        • Violence - trying to force meaning in the pool (controlling, labeling and attacking)
      • Your Style Under Stress

ACT 3: RESPECT, Aretha Franklin
  • Make it Safe (How to make it safe to talk about almost anything)
    • Mutual Purpose – working toward a common outcome, mutual caring about goals, interests, and values.
    • Mutual Respect – Why? It’s like air, if you take it away…it’s all people will think about.
    • If they don’t work?
      • Aplogize: when you have clearly violated respect, apologize.
      • Contrast: Start with what you don’t mean or intend, then explain what you do mean.
      • CRIB
        • Commit to seek Mutual Purpose
        • Recognize the purpose behind the strategy
        • Invent a Mutual Purpose
        • Brainstorm new strategies

ACT 4: Emotions, Angelina
  • Master My Stories – Master my Emotions (How to stay in dialogue when you're angry, scared, or hurt.)
    • Recognize the emotions.
    • Get back to the facts.
    • Notice your involvement in the problem. Accept it.
    • Know how you want the story to end.

ACT 5: If You Follow Me, I'll Follow You, Genesis
  • STATE My Path (How to speak persuasively, not abrasively)
    • Share your facts
    • Tell your story
    • Ask for others' paths
    • Talk tentatively
    • Encourage testing
  • Explore Others' Paths (How to listen when others blow up or clam up)
    • AMPP
      • Ask (to get things rolling)
      • Mirror (to confirm feelings)
      • Paraphrase (to acknowledge the story)
      • Prime (when you're getting nowhere)

ACT 6: You Can't Always Get What Your Want!, Rolling Stones
  • Move to Action (How to turn crucial conversations into actions and results)
    • Command
    • Consult
    • Vote
    • Consensus
  • Finish Clearly
    • Determine who does what...WHEN.
    • Make deliverables CRYSTAL CLEAR.
    • Set a follow-up time.
    • Record commitments and then follow up.
    • Hold people accountable for their promises!

Taking it One Step Further

    1. 8 Tips for Crucial Conversations
    2. Join Vital Smarts for Sample Chapter, Audio Files, Crucial Skills Newsletter, Videos and more!
    3. Book Notes A summary of the "Crucial Conversations" chapters.