Insights from Crucial Conversations by K. Patterson, J. Grenny,
R. Mcmillan, and A. Switzler
“One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.” Linda Lambert
A crucial conversation is a critical confrontation that must be handled with care.
– Calling a client who hasn’t paid an overdue invoice.
– Talking to your boss about a promotion he promised.
– Confronting a teammate who isn’t doing his share of a project.
Navigating a crucial conversation is like defusing a bomb ‐ touch the wrong button or hit the wrong wire and you set off an explosion of emotion. The best way to avoid an emotional explosion and prevent a conversation from going silent or verbally violent is to keep the dialogue going. If there’s dialogue, then there’s a good chance you can work through the issue at the heart of any crucial conversation.
Here is a toolset you can use to diffuse tension during a crucial conversation and get back to productive dialogue:
Don’t start with a conclusion (“You don’t care about…”). Start with your observations:
– “When… (this happened and that happened)”
– “I… (experienced this thought and/or emotion)”
After sharing your observations as objectively as possible, invite them to share their story.
For example, if you need to confront a teammate who’s not doing his share of work on a team project, start by saying, “When you don’t
show up to team meetings and don’t deliver work to your teammates on time, I fear you don’t care about this project and aren’t putting in
the same effort as your teammates. I’m probably not seeing the whole picture. Can you help me see what’s going on?”
“The best at dialogue speak their minds completely and do it in a way that makes it safe for others to hear what they have to say and respond to it as well. They are both totally frank and completely respectful.” – Crucial Conversations
“Find a shared goal, and you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking.” – Crucial Conversations
To ensure your conversation partner DOES NOT see you as the enemy and resist everything you say, find and communicate a common goal, value, or purpose. If you can identify and communicate a common goal, value, or purpose, your conversation will transform from a fight to a strategy brainstorming session (looking for a way to get what you both want).
If a crucial conversation with a teammate isn’t going well, remind him, “We both want to enjoy working together, and this argument isn’t helping. Let’s see if we can come up with a creative solution together.”
If a conversation with your spouse isn’t going well, pause and say, “Why are we fighting? We both love and want what’s best for this family. Let’s work together to find a solution that works for both of us.”
If you’re having an argument with a client, remind her, “We both want a long a profitable business relationship. Let’s see if we can find a
the win‐win solution here.”
To start an industrial pump, you often need to ‘prime it’ by pouring water on it to get it up to the proper speed.
Often, you can get a conversation up to speed by offering a good-faith guess as to what your conversation partner is thinking. It can be as simple as saying “Are you thinking…” and voice concerns they may have.
To make a good-faith guess you must form two beliefs:
1- The person I’m talking to is a reasonable, rational, and decent person.
2- I am primarily responsible for the problem behind this conversation.
With these two foundational beliefs, any attempt to guess what someone is thinking will come across with a dose of goodwill and humility
(both of which get a conversation back to productive dialogue).
The more you engage in productive dialogue, the greater chance you find agreements, and the more likely
you’ll work together to resolve the problem at the heart of any crucial conversation.