Crucial conversation by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler
Tools for talking when stakes are high
Crucial conversation: A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary and (3) emotions run strong. The consequence of either avoiding or fouling up crucial conversations can be severe; when we fail a crucial conversation, every aspect of our lives can be affected - from our careers, to our communities, to our relationships to our personal health.
The law of crucial conversation: 20 years of research involving more than 100,000 people reveals that the key skill of effective leaders, teammates, parents and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues. other important studies we have conducted (www.vitalsmarts.com/research) have shown that companies with employees who are skilled at crucial conversation:
- Respond five times faster to financial downturns and make budgets adjustments far more intelligently than less-skilled peers
- Substantially increase trust and reduce transaction costs in virtual work teams
- Influence change in colleagues who are bullying, convincing, dishonest or incompetent.
When it comes to risky, controversial and emotional conversation, skilled people find a way to get all relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open. It is called dialogue - the free flow of meaning between two or more people. People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool - even ideas that at first glance appear controversial. The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy. As the pool of shared meaning grows, it helps people in two ways. First, as individual are exposed to more accurate and relevant information, they make better choices. Secondly, the larger the pool, the better the result.
People who are skilled at dialogue stay focused on their goals:
Work on me first, Us second - remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself
Focus on what you really want - When you find yourself moving toward silence or violence, stop and pay attention to your motives. Ask yourself: what does my behavior tell me about what my motives are? Then clarify what you really want. ask yourself: What do I want for myself? For others? For the relationship? And finally ask: How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?
Refuse the fool’s choice - As you consider what you want, notice when you start talking yourself into a fool’s choice. Watch to see if you are telling yourself that you must choose between peace and honestly, between winning and losing and so on. Break free of these fool’s Choices by searching for the and. Clarify what you don’t want, add to what you do want and ask you brain to start searching for healthy options to bring you to dialogue.
What do you need to see in order to catch problems before they become too severe? There are three different conditions to watch for: the moment a conversation turns crucial, signs that people don’t feel safe and your own style under stress.
- Learn to spot crucial conversation: Stay alert for the moment a conversation turns from a routine or harmless discussion into a crucial one. Some people first notice physical signals, others notice their emotions before they notice signs in their body and some people’s first cue is behavioral.
2. Learn to look for safety problems: People who are gifted at dialogue keep a constant vigil or safety. When it is safe, you can say anything, but don’t let safety problems lead you astray.
3. Look for your style under stress: Unfortunately when you fail to monitor your own behavior, you can look pretty silly. You have to become a vigilant self-monitor - please close attention to what you are doing and the impact it is having and then alter your strategy if necessary. esp. watch to see if you are having a good or bad impact on safety.
Make it Safe - How to make it safe to talk about almost anything:
- Step out make it safe and then step back in: When others move to silence or violence, step out of the conversation and make it safe. When safety is restored, go back to the issue at hand and continue the dialogue.
- Decide which condition of safety is at risk: mutual purpose. Do others believe you care about their goals in this conversation? Do they trust your motives? Mutual respect: od others believe you respect them?
- Apologize when appropriate: When you have clearly violated respect, apologize.
- When to fix misunderstanding: When others misunderstand either your purpose of your intent use contrasting. Start with what you don’t intend or mean and then explain what you do intend or mean.
- Create a mutual purpose: When you are at cross-purpose, use four skills to get back to mutual purpose - (1) Commit to seek mutual purpose, (2) recognize the purpose behind the strategy, (3) invent a mutual purpose, & (4) brainstorm new strategies.
Master my stories: How to stay in dialogue when you are angry, scared or hurt.
When we feel a need to justify our ineffective behavior or disconnect ourselves from our bad results, we tend to tell our stores in three predictable ways: (1) It’s not my fault, (2) It’s your fault, & (3) There’s nothing else I can do.
Analyze your stories. Question your conclusion and look for other possible explanations behind your story. What story is creating these emotions? Abandon your absolute certainty by distinguishing between hard facts and your invented story.
State my path - How to speak my persuasively, not abrasively.
When you have a tough message to share, or when you are so convinced of your own rightness that you may push too hard, remember to STATE your path:
Share your facts - start with the least controversial, most persuasive elements from your path to action
Tell your story - explain what you’re beginning to conclude
Ask for others’ paths. Encourage others to share both their facts and their stories
Talk tentatively. State your story as a story - don’t disguise it as a fact
Encourage testing - make it safe for others to express different or even opposing views.
Explore others paths - how to listen when others blow up or clam up.
To encourage the free flow of meaning and help others leave silence or violence behind, explore their paths to action. Start with an attitude of curiosity and patience. This helps restore safety. Then, use four powerful listening skills to retrace the other person’s path to action to its origins.
Ask: start by simply expressing interest in the other person’s views
Mirror; Increase safety by respectfully acknowledging the emotions people appear to be feeling
Paraphrase: As others begin to share part of their story, restate what you’ve heard to show not just that you understand, but also that it’s safe for them to share what they’re thinking.
Prime: If others continue to hold back, prime. Take your best guess at what they may be thinking and feeling.
As you begin to share your views, remember:
Agree when you share views
Build - if others leave something out, agree where you share views, then build
Compare - when you do differ significantly don’t suggest others are wrong. Compare your two views.
Move to action - how to turn crucial conversation into action and results.
The four methods of decision making - there are four common ways to making decisions - command, consult, vote and consensus.
Four important questions:
- Who cares? Determine who genuinely wants to be involved in the decision along with those who will be affected
- Who knows? Identify who has the expertise you need to make the best decision
- Who must agree? Think of those whose cooperation you might need in the form of authority or influence in any decision you might make.
- How many people is it worth involving? Your goal should be to involve the fewer number of people while still considering the quality of the decision along with the support that people give it.
Advice for tough cases
Book provides advice /solution for the following touch cases
Sex or other harassment
My overlay sensitive spouse
Failure to live up to agreements
Deference to authority
Won’t talk about anything serious’
Vague, but annoying
Shows no initiative
Shows a pattern
I need time to calm down
Regretting saying something horrible
Touchy and personal
Dealing with someone who breaks all the rules
Book provides 33-question test to explore how you typically respond when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation.