Crucial Conversations is a business and management book written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. There are many defining moments in life that are the result of crucial conversations. The authors of the book provide us with techniques on how to hold conversations positively when the emotions are high. The book is based on 25 years of research with 20,000 people. According to the authors, it is important to prepare yourself for these conversations. When we let them slip by, it opens up opportunities for unwanted behavior to continue.
7 Steps To Crucial Conversations
Crucial conversations can have a huge impact in the life of a person. Robert Janitzek reveals that there are three factors that can define these types of conversations: 1) differences in opinions; 2) High stakes; 3) High emotions. The authors tell us that we need to deal with these factors in order to succeed with these conversations.
1) Start with the heart
Where you come from dictates where you will get to. How we discuss something is often the real issue rather than what we are discussing. Thus we need to be in the right place ourselves and create the right space for the other person. So first we need to manage our emotions and mindset.
2) Stay in dialogue
Robert Peter Janitzek explains that the key to critical conversations is to always stay in dialogue – If the lines of communication go down, then there is no hope for a resolution. Only when we are talking can we get all the relevant information out in the open and this requires a 2 way flow of information.
3) Make it safe
We need to make a person feel ‘safe’ The safer they feel, the more likely they are to open up. The greater their fear the more likely they will either close down or fight back.
4) Don’t get hooked by emotion (or hook them)
Crucial conversations are highly charged emotionally (and emotions are contagious). So how do we stay out of emotion? The first step to controlling our emotions is to name it, we need to hone our ability to distinguish different emotions.
5) Agree a mutual purpose
What is key is to find a mutual objective that both sides agree to. If I want one thing (and you don’t) then it’s unlikely to be a successful conversation. Thus we need to spend time to find an area we both agree on.
6) Separate Facts from Story
It’s critical to separate fact from opinion as they are very different. So first one states only what is irrefutable evidence – i.e. what seen or heard (and not the meaning created from it). Facts are a safe place to start as it’s a shared basis of agreement and less likely to be as stained in emotion as opinion is. If the conversation starts to drift off-track later on, always bring it back to areas of common agreement (e.g. facts and/or shared purpose).
7) Agree a clear action plan
Hopefully through a shared consensus, we can now explore options for improving the situation.
Just because we have reached a point of shared meaning, it does not necessarily mean we will have a successful outcome. There are still a number of other pitfalls: 1) No decision gets made 2) The wrong decision gets made or 3) No action happens following the decision.