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Let’s add one more skill. Sometimes we find ourselves in the

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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




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

initial conversation.

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





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

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