.commit to Seek Mutual Purpose
As is true with most dialogue skills, if you want to get back to dia
logue, you have to Start with Heart. In this case, you have to agree
to agree. To be successful, we have to stop using silence or vio
lence to compel others to our view. We must even surrender false
dialogue, where we pretend to have Mutual Purpose (calmly argu
ing our side until the other person gives in) . We Start with Heart
by committing to stay in the conversation until we come up with
a solution that serves a purpose we both share.
This can be tough. To stop arguing, we have to suspend our
bel ief that our choice is the absolute best and only one, and that
we’ l l never be happy until we get exactly what we currently
want . We have to open our mind to the fact that maybe, just
maybe, there is a different choice out there-one that suits
84 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
We also have to be willing to verbalize this commitment even
when our partner seems committed to winning. We act on faith
that our partner is stuck in silence or violence because he or she
feels unsafe. We assume that if we build more safety-by
demonstrating our commitment to finding a Mutual Purpose
the other person will feel more confident that dialogue could be
a productive avenue.
So next time you find yourself stuck in a battle of wills, try this
amazingly powerful but simple skill. Step out of the content of
the struggle and make it safe. Simply say, “It seems like we’re
both trying to force our view. I commit to stay in this discussion
until we have a solution both of us are happy with.” Then watch
whether safety takes a turn for the better .
.Recognize the Purpose behind the Strategy
Wanting to come up with a shared goal is a wonderful first step,
but it’s not enough. Once we’ve had a change of heart, we need
to change our strategy. Here’s the problem we have to fix: When
we find ourselves at an impasse, it’s because we’re asking for one
thing and the other person is asking for something else. We think
we’ll never find a way out because we equate what we’re asking
for with what we want. In truth, what we’re asking for is the
strategy we’re suggesting to get what we want. We confuse wants
or purpose with strategies. That’s the problem.
For example, I come home from work and say that I want to
go to a movie. You say that you want to stay home and relax.
And so we debate: movie, TV, movie, read, etc. We figure we’ll
never be able to resolve our differences because going out and
staying home are incompatible.
In such circumstances we can break the impasse by asking
others, “Why do you want that?” In this case,
MAKE IT SAFE 85
“Why do you want to stay home?”
“Because I’m tired of running around and dealing with the
hassle of the city.”
“So you want peace and quiet?”
“Mostly. And why do you want to go to a movie?”
“So I can spend some time with you away from the kids .”
Before you can agree on a Mutual Purpose, you must know
what people’s real purposes are. So step out of the content of the
conversation-which is generally focused on strategies-and
explore the purposes behind them.
When you do this, new options become possible. When you
release your grip on your strategy and focus on your real pur
pose, you open up the possibility of finding new alternatives that
can serve Mutual Purpose.
“You want peace and quiet, and I want time with you away
from the kids . So if we can come up with something that is
quiet and away, we’ll both be happy. Is that right?”
“Absolutely. What if we were to take a drive up the
canyon and . . . ”