[notes] Crucial Conversations

 Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (2002) by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny

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 CH. 1: What’s a Crucial Conversation? And Who Cares?

“Now, what makes one of your conversations crucial as opposed to plain vanilla? First, opinions vary… Second, stakes are high… Third, emotions run strong.”

“When conversations matter the most-that is, when conversations move from casual to crucial-we’re generally on our worst behavior. Why is that? We’re designed wrong. When conversations turn from routine to crucial, we’re often in trouble. That’s because emotions don’t exactly prepare us to converse effectively. Countless generations of genetic shaping drive humans to handle crucial conversations with flying fists and fleet feet, not intelligent persuasion and gentle attentiveness.”

“We’re under pressure. Let’s add another factor. Crucial conversations are frequently spontaneous. More often than not, they come out of nowhere. And since you’re caught by surprise, you’re forced to conduct an extraordinarily complex human interaction in real time”

 CH. 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations (The Power of Dialogue)

“When it comes to risky, controversial, and emotional conversations, skilled people find a way to get all relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open.”

“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, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs.”

 CH. 3: Start with Heart (How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want)

“More often than not, we do something to contribute to the problems we’re experiencing. People who are best at dialogue understand this simple fact and turn it into the principle Work on me first.

“They maintain this focus in two ways. First, they’re steely-eyed smart when it comes to knowing what they want. Despite constant invitations to slip away from their goals, they stick with them. Second, skilled people don’t make Sucker’s Choices (either/or choices). Unlike others who justify their unhealthy behavior by explaining that they had no choice but to fight or take flight, the dialogue-smart believe that dialogue, no matter the circumstances, is always an option.”

 Focus on What You Really Want

“In order to move back to motives that allow for dialogue, you must step away from the interaction and look at yourself­ much like an outsider. Ask yourself: What am I doing, and if I had to guess, what does it tell me about my underlying motive?

“Once you call into question the shifting desires of your heart, you can make conscious choices to change them.”

“ Once you’ve asked yourself what you want, add one more equally telling question: How would I behave if I really wanted these results?

 Common Deviations

 Refuse the Sucker’s Choice

“Those offering up a Sucker’s Choice either don’t think of a third (and healthy) option-in which case it’s an honest but tragic mistake-or set up the false dichotomy as a way of justifying their unattractive actions.”

“The best at dialogue refuse Sucker’s Choices by setting up new choices.”

  1. First, clarify what you really want.
  2. Second, clarify what you really don’t want.
  3. Third, present your brain with a more complex problem.

 CH. 4: Learn to Look (How to Notice When Safety Is at Risk)

 Learn to Spot Crucial Conversations

“First, stay alert for the moment a conversation turns from a routine or harmless discussion into a crucial one. In a similar vein, as you anticipate entering a tough conversation, pay heed to the fact that you’re about to enter the danger zone.”

“Think about what happens to your body when conversations get tough. Everyone is a little bit different. What are your cues?”

 Learn to Look for Safety Problems

“People who are gifted at dialogue keep a constant vigil on safety. They pay attention to the content-that’s a given-and they watch for signs that people are afraid. When friends, loved ones, or colleagues move away from healthy dialogue (freely adding to the pool of meaning)-either forcing their opinions into the pool or purposefully keeping their ideas out of the pool­ they immediately turn their attention to whether or not others feel safe.”

“As people begin to feel unsafe, they start down one of two unhealthy paths. They move either to silence (withholding mean­ ing from the pool) or to violence (trying to force meaning in the pool).”

“The three most common forms of silence are masking. avoiding, and withdrawing.”

Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true opinions. Sarcasm, sugarcoating, and couching are some of the more popular forms.”

Avoiding involves steering completely away from sensitive subjects.”

Withdrawing means pulling out of a conversation altogether.”

“Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view.”

Controlling consists of coercing others to your way of thinking. It’s done through either forcing your views on others or dominating the conversation. Methods include cutting others off, overstating your facts, speaking in absolutes, changing subjects, or using directive questions to control the conversation.”

Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dis­ miss them under a general stereotype or category.”

Attacking speaks for itself. You’ve moved from winning the argument to making the person suffer.”

 CH. 5: Make It Safe (How to Make It Safe to Talk about Almost Anything)

“The first step to building more safety is to understand which of the two conditions of safety is at risk.”

 Mutual Purpose

“Mutual Purpose means that others perceive that we are working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that we care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa. We believe they care about ours.”

“Crucial conversations often go awry not because of the content of the conversation, but because others believe that the painful and pointed content means that you have a malicious intent.”

 Mutual Respect

“Mutual Respect is the continuance condition of dialogue. As people perceive that others don’t respect them, the conversation immediately becomes unsafe and dialogue comes to a screeching halt.”

“Telltale signs. To spot when respect is violated and safety takes a turn south, watch for signs that people are defending their dignity. Emotions are the key. When people feel disrespected, they become highly charged.”

 What To Do Once You Step Out

We’ve shared a few modest ideas (mostly things to avoid), so let’s get into three hard-hitting skills that the best at dialogue use:

 CH. 6: Master My Stories (How to Stay in Dialogue When You'reAngry, Scared, or Hurt)

 Emotions Don’t Just Happen

“Claim One. Emotions don’t settle upon you like a fog. They are not foisted upon you by others. No matter how comfortable it might make you feel saying it-others don’t make you mad. You make you mad. You and only you create your emotions.”

“Claim Two. Once you’ve created your emotions, you have only two options: You can act on them or be acted on by them. That is, when it comes to strong emotions, you either find a way to master them or fall hostage to them.”

 Stories Create Feelings

“Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. That is, we add meaning to the action we observed. To the simple behavior we add motive. Why were they doing that? We also add judgment-is that good or bad? And then, based on these thoughts or stories, our body responds with an emotion.”

“If we take control of our stories, they won’t control us.”

 Retrace Your Path

  1. Am I in some form of silence or violence?
  2. What emotions are encouraging me to act this way?
  3. What story is creating these emotions?
    • Watch for Victim, Villain, and Helpless Stories.
  4. What evidence do I have to support this story? (Get back to the facts.)

 Tell the Rest of the Story

 CH. 7: STATE My Path (How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively)

 Maintain Safety

“People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it.”

“Skilled people are humble enough to realize that they don’t have a monopoly on the truth.”

 STATE Your Path

 CH. 8: Explore Others’ Paths (How to Listen When Others Blow Up or Clam Up)

“To encourage others to share their paths we’ll use four power listening tools that can help make it safe for other people to speak frankly.”

Agree when you agree. Build when others leave out key pieces. Compare when you differ.”

 CH. 9: Move to Action (How to Turn Crucial Conversations into Action and Results)

 Decide How To Decide

“Determine who does what by when. Make the deliverables crystal clear. Set a follow-up time.”

 CH. 10: Putting It All Together (Tools for Preparing and Learning)

 CH. 11: Yeah, But (Advice for Tough Cases)

 CH. 12: Change Your Life (How to Turn Ideas into Habits)


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