Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High discusses how to handle disagreements and high-stakes communication. It is written on the premise that when you are stuck in any situation–whether it’s at home or work–there is a crucial conversation keeping you from accomplishing the desired results. If you can learn to speak up in these crucial moments effectively, then you can accomplish the results you are after. The authors support this idea by referring to people who are considered influential by their peers and managers in their work and relationships. They studied successful communicators over a period of 25 years and concluded that what typically set them apart from the rest of the pack was their ability to deal with crucial conversations. They possess a skill-set that is easy to learn and allows them to face any situation with nearly anybody–no matter power, position, or authority
Chapter 1: What’s a Crucial Conversation? And Who Cares? A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. When we face crucial conversations, we can do one of three things: We can avoid them, we can face them and handle them poorly, or we can face them and handle them well. Ironically, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well. We often hold things inside by going silent until we can take it no longer—and then we drop a bomb. In short, we move between silence and violence—we either don’t handle the conversation, or don’t handle it well. We may not become physically violent, but we do attack others’ ideas and feelings. When we fail a crucial conversation, every aspect of our lives can be affected—from our careers, to our communities, to our relationships, to our personal health.
Chapter 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations: The Power of Dialogue Dialogue is the free flow of meaning between two or more people. At the center of dialogue lies a Pool of Shared Meaning. It contains the ideas, theories, feelings, thoughts, and opinions that are openly shared. The more information we have in the pool, the better prepared we are to make decisions and get results. Anything less than total candor shrinks the shared pool, saps motivation, and dumbs down decisions. Taking time to fill the pool leads to faster and more effective results than the game-playing that inevitably follows silence and violence strategies. Dialogue takes time. The alternative takes longer.
Chapter 3: Start with Heart: How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want In order to break away from silence and violence, we have to change our behavior. This calls first for a change in heart. Our first change in heart comes from realizing that as much fun as it would be to fix other people, we need to work on ourselves first. We need to examine our personal role in any problem we encounter. Our next change in heart comes with a change in motive. As we find ourselves forgetting our original goal of candidly and honestly adding meaning to the pool and instead striving to look good, win, or achieve some other unhealthy objective, we need to ask ourselves, “What do I really want?” Also, while it’s true that sometimes we are caught in a genuine dilemma with only two bad options, most of the time we do have healthy alternatives. When it comes to crucial conversations, “and” thinking makes a great deal of sense. Replacing “either/or” thinking with “and” thinking provides a way to reduce the ill effects of adrenaline. By asking ourselves the “and” question, we force our brains to move to higher-level, more complex thinking.
Chapter 4: Learn to Look: How to Notice When Safety Is at Risk When a conversation turns crucial, we either miss or misinterpret the early warning signs. The sooner we notice we’re not in dialogue, the quicker we can get back to dialogue, and the lower the cost....