Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Buddy

The Living Force
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
—GEORGE BERNARD SHAW


I would like to mention a book I've found really enjoyable and useful in daily life. Crucial Conversations has now grown into Crucial Confrontations and spreading around the world. People from all walks of life are learning this model, implementing the skills and using them to improve relationships and get things done. I thought a mention of it would be worth posting about on here.


Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
SECOND EDITION
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
Copyright © 2012 by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-177220-4
MHID: 0-07-177220-0

Foreword by Stephen R. Covey

Contents

FOREWORD TO THE SECOND EDITION
FOREWORD TO THE FIRST EDITION
PREFACE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
CH. 1: What’s a Crucial Conversation?
And Who Cares? 1
CH. 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations
The Power of Dialogue
CH. 3: Start with Heart
How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want
CH. 4: Learn to Look
How to Notice When Safety Is at Risk
CH. 5: Make It Safe
How to Make It Safe to Talk About Almost Anything
CH. 6: Master My Stories
How to Stay in Dialogue When You’re Angry, Scared, or Hurt
CH. 7: STATE My Path
How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively
CH. 8: Explore Others’ Paths
How to Listen When Others Blow Up or Clam Up
CH. 9: Move to Action
How to Turn Crucial Conversations into Action and Results
CH. 10: Yeah, But
Advice for Tough Cases
CH. 11: Putting It All Together


Definition:

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


A key concept:

There are two common patterns people fall into that put safety at risk. With silence, people may be withdraw from conversation, avoid topics or respond in ways that obscure meaning. With violence, people may resort to verbal abuse, labeling, and manipulating the situation. Understanding these patterns will allow you to diagnose situations and be more effective. Also, there is a test that lets you identify your preferred pattern when in conflict so you can debug your own behaviour.


A note from Chapter 2:

DIALOGUE SKILLS ARE LEARNABLE

The skills required to master high-stakes interactions are quite easy to spot and moderately easy to learn. First consider the fact that a well-handled crucial conversation all but leaps out at you. In fact, when you see someone enter the dangerous waters of a high-stakes, high-emotion, controversial discussion—and the person does a particularly good job—your natural reaction is to step back in awe. “Wow!” is generally the first word out of your mouth. What starts as a doomed discussion ends up with a healthy resolution. It can take your breath away.

More important, not only are dialogue skills easy to spot, but they’re also fairly easy to learn. That’s where we’re going next. We’ve isolated and captured the skills of the dialogue-gifted through twenty-five years of nonstop “Wow!” research. First, we followed around Kevin and others like him.

Then, when conversations turned crucial , we took detailed notes. Afterward, we compared our observations, tested our hypotheses, and honed our models until we found the skills that consistently explain the success of brilliant communicators. Finally, we combined our philosophies, theories, models, and skills into a package of learnable tools—tools for talking when stakes are high. We then taught these skills and watched as key performance indicators and relationships improved.

Now we’re ready to share what we’ve learned. Stay with us as we explore how to transform crucial conversations from frightening events into interactions that yield success and results. It’s the most important set of skills you’ll ever master.
.
HERE’S WHERE WE’RE GOING

Throughout the remainder of the book we’ll explore the tools people use to help create the conditions of dialogue. The focus is on how we think about problem situations and what we do to prepare for them. As we work on ourselves, watch for problems, examine our own thought processes, discover our own styles, and then catch problems before they get out of hand, everyone benefits. As you read on, you will learn how to create conditions in yourself and others that make dialogue the path of least resistance .

Next, we’ll examine the tools for talking, listening, and acting together. This is what most people have in mind when they think of crucial conversations. How do I express delicate feedback? How do I speak persuasively, not abrasively? And how about listening? Or better still, what can we do to get people to talk when they seem nervous? And how do we move from thought to action? As you read on, you will learn the key skills of talking, listening, and acting together .

Finally, we’ll tie all of the theories and skills together by providing both a model and an extended example. Then, to see if you can really do what it takes, we provide seventeen situations that would give most of us fits—even people who are gifted at dialogue. As you read on, you will master the tools for talking when stakes are high.

There was a first chapter (22 page pdf) preview offered by VitalSmarts that I can't locate on the web ATM, so here's a similar example of the first chapter (16 page pdf):

_http://www.davidmaxfield.com/downloads/cc1firstchapter.pdf


As a summary, I found a 5 page pdf by Frumi Rachel Barr, MBA, PhD, who also does summaries for _www.100mustreads.com, to be better than others on the web. It no longer resides where I originally found it, so I uploaded a copy and linked it here:

_http://depositfiles.com/files/6h959go5s


Here's another good summary (8 page pdf):

_http://files.soundview.com.s3.amazonaws.com/sample-summary/crucial.pdf
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Sounds like one I will be ordering. Your "shared files" link asked me to sign up (in French) to access it. They also wanted money.
 

Olesya

Jedi Master
Thank you, Buddy for posting the info about this book. I will be interested in reading it. Here is pdf of this book online: [link removed]
 

SMM

The Living Force
Thank you Buddy. This is one that piques my interest, we all find ourselves in crucial conversations when least expected.

There's a sample view on Amazon here.
It can also be found on other Amazon websites.
 

MoonGlow

Padawan Learner
Olesya said:
Thank you, Buddy for posting the info about this book. I will be interested in reading it. Here is pdf of this book online: [link removed].
Exactly what I was about to be looking for. Thanks for saving me the trouble.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Laura said:
Sounds like one I will be ordering. Your "shared files" link asked me to sign up (in French) to access it. They also wanted money.
My apologies, Laura. I had no idea.

Here's a new tested link:

_http://www.filedropper.com/crucialconversations5pgsummary
 

Olesya

Jedi Master
Olesya said:
Thank you, Buddy for posting the info about this book. I will be interested in reading it. Here is pdf of this book online: [link removed].
Here is the right place [link removed] No dot at the end. My apologies.
 

Alana

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Buddy said:
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
—GEORGE BERNARD SHAW


I would like to mention a book I've found really enjoyable and useful in daily life. Crucial Conversations has now grown into Crucial Confrontations and spreading around the world. People from all walks of life are learning this model, implementing the skills and using them to improve relationships and get things done. I thought a mention of it would be worth posting about on here.
It's very much worth mentioning, thank you so much for bringing this book to my attention, Buddy. I think it should go in the must read of the recommended reading list.

I am still around chapter 8, but I find it extremely useful and I wanted to second your recommendation. I never thought that I was an expert on conversations, but I had the impression about myself that I was at least "ok". So, unlike you, I didn't experience it as enjoyable reading (especially at first), because it reminded me of so many crucial conversations in my life where I did all the wrong things, injured relationships, and got exactly the opposite results of what I intended out of a conversation or for not having the conversation at all. So it was more of an emotionally painful but sobering reading, and with some hope at the end of the tunnel, as I continue to read. If nothing else, I am now more aware than before that my skills in this area are certainly in need for improvement.

And their entire premise and set of techniques, is not anything new to us here: they describe very simply and clearly the system 1/system 2 interaction (the stories we tell ourselves), how to master emotional control during crucial conversations (and if then, imagine what we can do when stakes aren't that high), external considering vs internal considering (not using this vocabulary though) without all the heavy wordiness and theorizing that social scientists usually use in their books. It's very practical, short sweet and to the point, which I personally appreciate very much. I highly recommend it to everyone.

As I was reading the Splitting as a Symptom of Internal Considering thread, I thought that this book might be a good tool for all of us who feel we might be struggling with black-and-white thinking all of our lives. I am not saying that we won't, or that we won't be struggling with improving our crucial conversations for as long as we live, but even if we are able to remember even a couple of tips and implement them during our next high-stakes conversation, it might make a big difference to an important relationship in our lives. And there lies my hope.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Sharing some excerpts, personal comments and notes from this book.

Fool's Choice in Difficult Situations

What makes us avoid difficult situations or handle them badly is at least in part due to our thinking which limits our choices between two unattractive alternatives. If we see an authority figure do something wrong we usually tell ourselves "If I speak up I am going to be punished"; "If I do nothing may be someone else will do it or it will just go away by itself." Sometimes we can let the resentment build up when "nobody else does anything" and "it does not go away" and then one day confront the situation with a ton of repressed emotions and get a bad outcome. Or we just sulk and complain to anyone who would listen but can do nothing about the real problem. This is what falling for a fool's choice - which the authors describe as "choosing between telling the truth and keeping a friend" usually does.

To get out of the fool's choice, the brain is given a more difficult problem to solve " how can I be 100% truthful and 100% respectful at the same time". People who excel at dialogue are shown to

[quote author=Crucial Conversations]
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. That’s it. 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 or unpopular.
.........................
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. Now, obviously, they don’t agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open.
[/quote]


Starting with the Heart

The only person we can work on is ourselves. So we start with some basic questions and keep coming back to them over and over as the conversation proceeds.

What do I want for myself?
What do I want for the other party?
What do I want for the relationship?

We can start with the best of motives but can soon lose our way as the conversation proceeds. We try to win by focusing on being right or step back and clamp up either for the fear of reprisals or hurting the other person or as a passive aggressive technique. This is where revisiting these basic questions help to bring us back on track. We can look at the questions as an aid to "remember ourselves". Then it helps us orient better in the present as we ask
"How would I behave if I really wanted these results?"

Focus on condition as well as content of conversation

We are often too focused on the content of the conversation - I know I do that most of the times. If we are overfocused on content, we miss subtle cues which tell us that the environment may have changed and is no longer conducive for dialog and free flow of meaning that makes dialog happen. Even if we are able to remember our goals, the other party may have checked out from dialogue and retreated into "silence " (masking or trivializing the real issue, going off on tangents, withdrawing etc) or "violence" (controlling by cutting others off, using absolutes, labeling with stereotypes etc). When we recognize this, the authors state that the first priority is to restore appropriate conditions for dialog before proceeding any further with facts, opinions or conclusions related to the issue under consideration.

Restoring Safety

This involves working with mutual purpose and mutual respect.

Mutual Purpose
A mutually agreeable purpose is the entry condition for any meaningful dialog. If we are at cross purposes and cannot arrive at a shared objective, then it is better to withdraw from dialog and not waste energy.

To work with mutual purpose, the authors suggest the acronym CRIB.
C- Commit to finding a purpose that is win-win for both
R- Recognize what the other person may be looking for by adopting the behavior they have chosen
I- Invent a purpose at a higher level that reconciles the differences in the present level
B - Brainstorm to find a path towards achieving the purpose

Mutual Respect

Mutual respect is the continuance condition for dialog. We may be forced by circumstances to work with people for whom we do not feel respect. Remembering external consideration - doing what makes life easy for the self and others - may help in difficult situations. Rather than focusing on differences we can focus on how we are similar - like finding common ground in basic human needs and emotions.

If we have actually acted in a way that was disrespectful, an apology is in order.

If an apology is not in order, then authors suggest "contrasting". Contrasting takes the form of "I did not intend to ......." , which addresses the others' concern about loss of respect followed by "What I want is ..............", which clarifies our purpose.

[quote author=Crucial Conversations]
It’s important to understand that Contrasting is not apologizing. It is not a way of taking back something we’ve said that hurt others’ feelings. Rather, it is a way of ensuring that what we said didn’t hurt more than it should have.
....
Contrasting provides context and proportion.
[/quote]

Contrasting is helpful specially when we are tempted to back off and water down the original message which hurt a sore point but is factually accurate. We do not need to apologize for our views but ensure that people do not read more into it than was intended.

Ways of talking and listening

Being forceful in sharing our views - like stating things with absolute certainty is counterproductive when talking to people who hold opposing views. Being tentative but not wimpy is found to be more useful in such conversations.

Wimpy - "I know this is probably not true but ....." "Call me crazy but ......."

Being tentative means stating what is known, drawing tentative conclusions based on the available data, and soliciting feedback instead of stating things as if they were undisputable facts.

While asking for others' feedback, it is important to really listen. To encourage others to open up, the authors suggest that we AMPP
A - Ask for their input and show interest
M - Mirror by acknowledging the emotions they appear to be experiencing
P - Paraphrase what we hear to ensure understanding and build safety
P - Prime by guessing what they may be thinking and feeling if they appear to be holding back

Things to remember here are
- Understanding others' perspective does not equate with agreeing with what they are saying
- Sensitivity to their condition does not equate with giving in to what they are asking for

The authors suggest an ABC approach towards responding to others' stories.

A- Agree to what we can agree with. Authors say we often tend to intensely focus on 5-10% of difference in views while ignoring the 90-95% of common ground that we may share.

B- Build from what we agree on towards information that may have been omitted and constitute a key factor in the difference in views which the dialog is trying to address

C- Compare when there is clear disagreement by sharing data and tentative conclusions that the data has led us to.

Responding to Patterns vs Isolated Issues

Many times, we choose to hold a crucial conversation after long observation which point towards a pattern of behavior that needs addressing instead of isolated, independent issues which can appear trivial.

[quote author=Crucial Conversation]
People often become far more emotional than the issue they’re discussing warrants because they’re talking about the wrong issue. If you’re really bothered because of a pattern, but you’re talking about this latest instance, your emotions will seem out of proportion. In contrast, an interesting thing happens when you hold the right conversation. Your emotions calm down. When you talk about what’s really eating you—the pattern—you’ll be able to be more composed and effective. Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will seem trivial. Talk about the overall pattern.
[/quote]

When confronting patterns, it is easy to get carried away as well. To keep things manageable, it is useful to ask "What bothers me the most " and "What would be easier to start dealing with ".

Lots of case study examples in the book which brings out these points. The book is an easy read - highly recommended.
 
Here's a free link to the book.

[Moderator note: Link removed due to copyright infringement. Buy the book and support the author.]
 

beetlemaniac

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
obyvatel said:
Focus on condition as well as content of conversation

We are often too focused on the content of the conversation - I know I do that most of the times. If we are overfocused on content, we miss subtle cues which tell us that the environment may have changed and is no longer conducive for dialog and free flow of meaning that makes dialog happen. Even if we are able to remember our goals, the other party may have checked out from dialogue and retreated into "silence " (masking or trivializing the real issue, going off on tangents, withdrawing etc) or "violence" (controlling by cutting others off, using absolutes, labeling with stereotypes etc). When we recognize this, the authors state that the first priority is to restore appropriate conditions for dialog before proceeding any further with facts, opinions or conclusions related to the issue under consideration.
Regarding the above; I'd like to share some of my experiences, specifically during work. A tunnel vision often envelops my cognition when I am in a discussion which brings up uncomfortable feelings associated with the topic being discussed, eg. taking up new jobs/responsibiities at work, trying to reason with the boss in a misunderstanding or just talking to someone I don't particularly respect or like.

Common results from this tunnel vision is: I inwardly refuse to take the position of the other, feeling that they are just trying to take advantage of my junior position, or just my stubbornness. I then outwardly either say how I have too much work already, in an argumentative or whining tone or just clam up and seethe. I notice it becomes harder to reach out to people after handling confrontations in this way. I keep operating from a literal point of view without considering the nuances of communication. The person I'm talking to could be trying to convey something in an indirect manner, which is where my literal interpretation becomes completely at odds with the situation. Example of a good attempt at communication: I asked my supervisor if he finished up a piece of work that was pending, he responded by what I saw as a guilty reaction to the effect of "no, not yet -- :-[". I responded by negating his reaction and clarifying my intent -- "no it's not that, it's just that I wanted to know more about the progress on this project".

With the difficult boss, I tend to get extreme tunnel vision -- effectively leading the conversation into deeper conflict instead of intelligently taking a step back, and going for alternative routes to solution. I wrote more about this experience in this post.

These experiences remind me of how shut up I am to others and their points of view. Much like a child who is scared to venture out into the unknown, preferring a fixed state which guarantees a kind of "safety". To put it simply and in individualistic terms, I don't want to get out of my comfort zone. Basic system1 mode of operation. It's a repeating pattern -- this descent into mental laziness. Maybe it's got something to do with suppression of emotions which then reduces my ability to perceive reality and act in positive ways. I have a sense that I suppress my feelings WAY too much and I'm not sure how to stop this from happening.

I'm wondering, could the fool's choice alluded to in obyvatel's post be attributed to going with system1's automatic reactions instead of the reasoned response of system2?

Thanks for this thread. Thanks for the recommendation too, obyvatel :)
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
beetlemaniac said:
I'm wondering, could the fool's choice alluded to in obyvatel's post be attributed to going with system1's automatic reactions instead of the reasoned response of system2?
It could be a habitual automatic reaction that takes what appears to be the easy way out in the present. Sometimes, it could also be some thinking involved in the fool's choice but such thinking is running off some limiting emotions - in other words system2 doing the bidding of system1 instead of taking an independent stand.

[quote author=beetlemaniac]
I keep operating from a literal point of view without considering the nuances of communication. The person I'm talking to could be trying to convey something in an indirect manner, which is where my literal interpretation becomes completely at odds with the situation.
[/quote]

It seems that you are not tuned in to the nuances as well as the non-verbal aspects of communication. You could find some excerpts from Daniel Goleman's "Social Intelligence" useful.

[quote author=beetlemaniac]
These experiences remind me of how shut up I am to others and their points of view. Much like a child who is scared to venture out into the unknown, preferring a fixed state which guarantees a kind of "safety". To put it simply and in individualistic terms, I don't want to get out of my comfort zone. Basic system1 mode of operation. It's a repeating pattern -- this descent into mental laziness. Maybe it's got something to do with suppression of emotions which then reduces my ability to perceive reality and act in positive ways. I have a sense that I suppress my feelings WAY too much and I'm not sure how to stop this from happening.
[/quote]

Along with pipe breathing, body awareness and labeling of emotions (what am I feeling now), I found some tips provided in building EQ (emotional quotient) helpful. Some excerpts here. IMO it provides practical how-to-do ideas to develop the social intelligence skills that Goleman talks about.
 

beetlemaniac

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Just want to share a little anecdote about what happened today. I took the day off and went out with my sister to scout around for a new fridge. Our current one is getting old and frosting up all the time. I was recommended by a friend to get a specific model which he had bought some months back. I had done some background research as well, to try and pinpoint some choices. The friend's choice was stuck in my mind, so I decided to go with the same one or something very similar, because there were just too many different types out there -- it spared me the headache.

Anyway, we were at the stores, looking. I always had a bad feeling about retail outlets -- the choices are just too much, the tag prices are all marked up, and the worst part are the salespeople, especially the pushy ones. It's hard to rely on any type of intuition (system1) when the only thing these people want to do is close the sale. You'd just be carried off by the wind! Luckily, I was supported by my sister who helped me focus on what we needed vs what was available.

There was this one salesperson who was the most pushy of all of them -- his behaviour built up a strong anxiety at the time which made it difficult to make any sort of decision about what to do. I relied on my sister to kind of pull me out of that situation -- I wonder what would have happened if I had gone there alone! In the end we just left the store and went back home, deciding to take our time and evaluate prices from all the different stores.

Well the whole ordeal has shown me that I could learn a thing or two about behaviour when under pressure -- not to give in to anxiety and indecisiveness. I also noticed that the way I interact with salespeople is by antagonizing them... it's like looking at them with a deep mistrust. Which is curious because I just got conned out of some money (not a whole lot) by some guy who faked a motorbike accident some days ago -- it probably had made me a little bit less trusting of strangers.

Also an interesting video here about how sales people do their thing: _https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/borrowing-and-credit/borrowing-basics/avoiding-sales-pressure

Didn't want to make a new thread so I posted it here as it was somewhat related.
 

Olesya

Jedi Master
obyvatel said:
beetlemaniac said:
I'm wondering, could the fool's choice alluded to in obyvatel's post be attributed to going with system1's automatic reactions instead of the reasoned response of system2?
It could be a habitual automatic reaction that takes what appears to be the easy way out in the present. Sometimes, it could also be some thinking involved in the fool's choice but such thinking is running off some limiting emotions - in other words system2 doing the bidding of system1 instead of taking an independent stand.

[quote author=beetlemaniac]
I keep operating from a literal point of view without considering the nuances of communication. The person I'm talking to could be trying to convey something in an indirect manner, which is where my literal interpretation becomes completely at odds with the situation.
It seems that you are not tuned in to the nuances as well as the non-verbal aspects of communication. You could find some excerpts from Daniel Goleman's "Social Intelligence" useful.

[quote author=beetlemaniac]
These experiences remind me of how shut up I am to others and their points of view. Much like a child who is scared to venture out into the unknown, preferring a fixed state which guarantees a kind of "safety". To put it simply and in individualistic terms, I don't want to get out of my comfort zone. Basic system1 mode of operation. It's a repeating pattern -- this descent into mental laziness. Maybe it's got something to do with suppression of emotions which then reduces my ability to perceive reality and act in positive ways. I have a sense that I suppress my feelings WAY too much and I'm not sure how to stop this from happening.
[/quote]

Along with pipe breathing, body awareness and labeling of emotions (what am I feeling now), I found some tips provided in building EQ (emotional quotient) helpful. Some excerpts here. IMO it provides practical how-to-do ideas to develop the social intelligence skills that Goleman talks about.
[/quote]

To what I put in bold and what I've read in the "Emotional intelligence thread" linked above, I just like to add the crucial importance of networking with like minded people. Thank you all and obyvatel for your knowledge and understanding, and thank you, beetlemaniac, for a really wonderful example of how some 'con' artists really operate, pressuring people to make decisions that are not beneficial for them, but could be of real detriment. I think it's all part of the learning process, so these 'bad' experiences can be of real aid, if someone looks at the overall picture. Learning is fun! :)
 

Scottie

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
There are a bunch of Joseph Grenny videos on YouTube. I've watched a bunch of them, but this is the best one I think. Only 15 minutes.

I find the info much easier to absorb in this format than via the book.

This video talks a bit about how we tell ourselves stories, and where emotional reactions really come from. The story about the woman who mentions her husband's lunches with his ex-GF really kind of drives home how quickly and easily we tell ourselves "stories".


https://youtu.be/PuJgqTs-G44
 
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