Crucial Conversations : Notes : Part I

I have consolidated some of the notes I collected from the Web from Various sources for the crucial conversations training. The topic is based from one of the best book I have read. “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.


Whatever is your role in the organization, reading this book will benefit one.


Isn’t there anyone you know who is able to hold a high-risk conversation in a way that solves the problem and builds relationships at the same time? This is one of the reasons I started reading this book.


I wanted to keep my focus on the notes I collected for the Stories section. After the initial overview, I wanted to post my notes on the stories. Till I read this book, I never realized the importance of crucial conversations and the role of Stories.


Whether we all realize it or not, we have the habit of telling a story (3 clever stories Victim, Villain and Helpless Stories). Reading the book and after I conducted the session, there are some changes with me. Now I question myself whenever a story arises from my side.


The prerequisite is to remember that the only person you can directly Control is yourself.


Crucial Conversations are interactions that happen to everyone – the day to day conversations that affect our life.


Issues like poor productivity, declining quality, lack of teamwork, or strained relationships are often the effects of crucial conversations that aren’t being held or aren’t being held well.


What makes a Conversation Crucial?

A discussion between two or more people where

1.       There are opposing opinions

2.       Stakes are high

3.       Emotions are strong


Why don’t crucial conversations tend to go well?

·         Emotions tend to rule

·         Your body physically reacts

·         We are under pressure

·         We are stumped

·         We act in self defeating ways


Examples of Crucial Conversations

  Ending a relationship

  Talking to a coworker who behaves offensively or makes suggestive comments

  Giving the boss feedback about her behavior

  Approaching a boss who is breaking his own safety or quality policies

  Discuss with the client about a poor feedback

  Critiquing a colleague’s work

  Talking to a team member who isn’t keeping commitments

  Talking to a colleague who is hoarding information or resources

  Giving an unfavorable performance review

  Asking a friend to repay a loan


Assumptions are the termites of relationships. ~ Henry Winkler


People who are most influential, who get things done are those who have mastered crucial conversations.


The most important thing to master crucial conversation is to remember that the only person you can directly Control is yourself.

During a crucial conversation,
we are left to deal with the most complex and challenging conversations of our lives with the same set of skills we would use to deal with a salivating predator. Adrenaline can do that to us


The most important thing in a crucial conversation is to get to a dialogue.


Successful conversations

  Free flow of relevant information

  Skilled people find a way to get all relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open

  They are willing and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular


Goals Leading to Disappointment

1.       Be right

2.       Look good/save face

3.       Keep the peace

4.       Win (at all costs)

5.       Punish or blame

6.       Avoid conflict

Goals Leading to Dialogue

1.       Learn from each other

2.       Find the truth

3.       Produce results

4.       Strengthen relationship

5.       Stay present without judgment

6.       Engage differences


Crucial Principles

1.       Start with Heart: Stay focused on what you really want.

2.       Learn to Look: Notice when safety is at risk.

3.       Make It Safe: Make it safe to talk about almost anything.

4.       State my Path: Encourage candidness in a way that does not offend or cause others to respond defensively

5.       Explore Other’s Path: Encourage people to listen to others during a crucial conversation

6.       Move to Action: Make decisions and improve accountability.


Stay focused on what you really want

When you find yourself moving towards silence or violence, stop yourself and pay attention to your motives

·         Ask yourself

o   What does my behavior tell myself about my motives?

o   Then clarify, What you really want, “for myself”, “for others” and “for the relationship”

o   Finally ask “How would I behave if I really wanted these results?”

·         Common Deviations

o   Wanting to win

o   Seeking revenge

o   Hoping to remain safe


Refuse the Sucker’s Choice: Sucker choice is “simplistic tradeoffs that keep us from thinking creatively of ways to get to dialogue, and that justify our silly games”.

  1. Should I be honest or loyal?
  2. Should I try to win or let you win?
  3. Should I hold my ground or admit your point?
  4. Should I say what I really think or make it safe for you to share?
  5. Should I take all the blame or heap it all on you?


Behavior Choices: Conversation Killers

We Can Fight “Violence”

Convincing, controlling, or compelling others to your viewpoint. Violates safety by forcing meaning into the pool

·         Controlling

o   Forcing one’s opinion, cutting others off, overstating one’s case, using absolutes

·         Labeling

o   Putting an unpleasant name on people or ideas so they can be dismissed

·         Attacking

o   Hurting others through name-calling, belittling, personal attacks

We Can Flee “Silence”

Purposefully withholding information from the dialogue. Used to avoid creating a problem. Always restricts the flow of meaning.

·         Masking

o   Understating, sugarcoating, couching, sarcasm

·         Avoiding

o   Talking, but not about the tough subject

·         Withdrawing

o   Pulling out of the conversation, sometimes literally


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.


Mutual Respect

·         In order to build safety people must perceive that they are respected.

·         “Mutual Respect is the continuance condition of dialogue”.

·         When respect is lost the conversation becomes about defending dignity.

·         Disrespect creates highly charged emotions. It is always possible to find a way to respect another’s basic humanity.

·         Respect doesn’t mean acceptance or agreement with other’s behavior.


Emotions don’t just happen

  Others don’t make you mad – You make yourself mad

  Only you create your emotions

  Once you have created your emotions you have two options:

ü  You can act on your emotions

ü  You can be acted on by your emotions


What happens when emotions enter the conversation?

·         The worst at dialogue treat emotions as the only valid response.

o   In their minds the emotions are both justified and accurate. They make no effort to change or even question their emotions

·         The good realize they must stay in control or things will get worse.

o   They fake it and allow things to remain bad rather than potentially get worse

·         The best act on their emotions and think them out.

o   They have strong emotions and they influence and often change the emotions by thinking them out and asking themselves complex questions


Happy Learning !!!


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