Book Summary: Crucial Conversations

Authors:  Patterson. Grenny.  McMillan. Switzler
We’ve all been there.  You are trying to have a rational (clear and calm) conversation about something important and suddenly, things turn sour (conversation turns bad).  Your conversation partner turns red in the face with anger and you feel like you can’t get a word in. You are also cross and eventually you both start yelling at each other.
How is it that 2 reasonable people can enter a shouting match?  Even when they both have the same goals (they both want a good outcome for the conversation).
We are going to look at how to have a fruitful and healthy conversation.  And give advice on how to get the conversation back on track if things go bad.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone and then it turns into an argument? Probably … tension and emotions are high and often your emotions are difficult to manage.  This often gets us into trouble. It is difficult to think rationally (fairly / normally) when we are confronted with this type of conversation.
When you have an argument with someone, it causes a rush of adrenalin when emotions are high, and are senses are heightened (more).  Our body cannot tell the difference …. Am I having an argument or am I in danger? The body prepares for sudden “fight or flight”. We make a split second decision when we are not thinking clearly or rationally.    There is no time to prepare for a conversation like this.
Let’s imagine your partner tells you they want to break up with you. You are not expecting this at all!  How you react will be spontaneous (in the moment and without thinking). It is unlikely you will discuss the pro’s and con’s of the break up – the conversation is going to become ugly.
Why is it important to become an expert at Crucial Conversations?  Because you can succeed in your personal and public life if you do.
People who master Crucial Conversations are able to tackle challenges and often become opinion leaders in the places where they work.  Also, couples who can handle these types of conversations are more likely to stay together.
When we anticipate a Crucial Conversation, we might be scared to share our opinions or ideas.  Or maybe we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. This is completely backwards! Sharing information leads to SMARTER decisions.  Smart people can also make mistakes when they don’t have all the necessary information.
Story:  There was a surgeon who amputated a man’s foot, but he amputated the wrong foot by mistake.  All the other professionals in the room stood around watching him make this mistake. They didn’t say anything because they were intimidated by the doctor!
Ideas and information should be freely shared.  We sometimes resist decisions that are made when we are not consulted (someone doesn’t ask for our opinion and so we don’t like theirs)
Imagine you are on a football team and your captain calls a meeting to figure out a strategy to figure out what to do.  Everyone shares their opinions. Finally, they choose an idea – one that you don’t agree with and think will fail BUT you are more likely to go ahead with it because you participated in the decision-making process.  If the captain just simply gave you a command with no consultation, you probably wouldn’t support the idea 100%.

  • Stay focused on your goals in a crucial conversation to prevent becoming overly emotional.

If someone has a different idea to yours.  Stop. Think about your goals. If you get angry, your conversation is probably not going to end with a solution.

  • People are more likely to behave aggressively in conversations where they don’t feel safe.

Create the right atmosphere.  People should never feel like you are attacking them even if the topic is controversial.  People will get defensive if they feel they are being criticized.

  • Create a safe conversation by ensuring that people feel that you respect them and their interests.

People need to feel respected, so be careful how you talk to them.  We all need to strive towards a common solution. If the common solution is not clear – then create one!

  • Manage your emotions by ensuring that you’ve got the facts straight before you interpret them (jump to conclusions)

What you THINK, might not necessarily be true.  When you start to get angry … first THINK “is it possible that I am mis-interpreting the situation”?  Learn to separate your explanation from your emotional response so you can stay level headed.

  • Make others feel safe in a conversation by creating an atmosphere where they feel their opinions are valued

Show your conversation partner that you care about what is making them unhappy.  Repeat what the person has said in a different way to make sure you have understood them correctly.  If a person feels threatened, they are less likely to want to continue a discussion with you.

  • Choose an appropriate way of making a decision and a clear division of responsibilities to put a conversation into action

Best solutions are reached when conversations are resolved.  Who will this decision affect? If a solution affects everyone on the team, there needs to be an agreement amongst team members.  If there are many possible acceptable solutions, then you can vote on them. But sometimes if there is a strong and trustful decision in the team you can give the final say over to one person.  Once the decision has been made … establish WHO does WHAT by WHEN. Everyone needs to know what is needed and what role they will play in fulfilling the objective.

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