CRIB TO GET TO MUTUAL PURPOSE
Let’s add one more skill. Sometimes we find ourselves in the
middle of a debate because we clearly have different purposes.
There is no misunderstanding here. Contrasting won’t do the
trick. We need something sturdier for this job.
For instance, you’ve just been offered a promotion that will
help propel your career along a faster track and bring you a great
deal more authority, and it pays enough to help soften the blow
of displacement. That last part is important because you’ll have
to move the family across the country and your spouse and kids
love where you currently live.
You expected your spouse to have feelings of ambivalence
over the move, but he or she doesn’t seem to be bivaling even a
tiny bit. To your spouse the promotion is a bad news/bad news
event. First, you have to move, and second, you’ll work even
MAKE IT SAFE 83
longer hours . That whole thing about more money and power
doesn’t seem to be compensating. Now what?
The worst at dialogue either ignore the problem and push
ahead or roll over and let others have their way. They opt for
either competition or submission. Both strategies end up making
winners and losers, and the problem continues long beyond the
The good at dialogue move immediately toward compromise.
For example, the couple facing the transfer sets up two house
holds-one where one spouse will be working and one where
the family currently lives. Nobody really wants this arrangement,
and frankly, it’s a pretty ugly solution that’s bound to lead to
more serious problems, even divorce. While compromise is
sometimes necessary, the best know better than to start there.
The best at dialogue use four skills to look for a Mutual Purpose.
The four skills they use form the acronym CRIB .
.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