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Crucial Question

Why is safety at risk?

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Crucial Question Why is safety at risk? • Have I established Mutual Purpose?
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• Have I established

Mutual Purpose?

• Am I maintaining

Mutual Respect?

What will I do to rebuild


What is my story?

What am I pretending not

to know about my role in

the problem?

Why would a reasonable,

rational, and decent person

do this?

What should I do right now

to move toward what I

really want?

Am I really open to others’


Am I talking about the real


Am I confidently expressing

my own views?

Am I actively exploring

others’ views?




Coaching for Crucial Conversations (Continued)


7. Move

to Action

(Chapter 9)





Decide how you’ll


Document decisions

and follow up.

let’s See How It Al l Works

Crucial Question

Am I avoiding unnecessary


How will we make


Who will do what by when?

How will we follow up?

We’ve included an extended case here to show how these prin­

ciples might look when you find yourself in the middle of a cru­

cial conversation. It outlines a tough discussion between you

and your sister about dividing your mother’s estate. The case is

set up to illustrate where the principles apply, and to briefly

review each principle as it comes up in the conversation.

The conversation begins with you bringing up the family sum­

merhouse. Your mother’s funeral was a month ago, and now it’s

time to split up both money and keepsakes. You’re not really

looking forward to it.

The issue is made touchier by the fact that you feel that since

you almost single-handedly cared for your mother during the

last several years, you should be compensated. You don’t think

your sister will see things the same way.

You r Crucial Conversation

YOU: We have to sell the summer cottage. We never use it,

and we need the cash to pay for my expenses from taking

care of Mom the past four years.



pum N G IT ALL TOG ETH ER 1 89

SISTER: Please don’t start with the guilt. I sent you money

every month to help take care of Mom. If I didn’t have

to travel for my jobs, you know I would have wanted her

at my house.

You notice that emotions are already getting strong. You’re

getting defensive, and your sister seems to be angry. You’re in a

crucial conversation, and it’s not going well.

Start with Heart

Ask yourself what you really want. You want to be compensated

fairly for the extra time and money you put in that your sister

didn’t. You also want to keep a good relationship with your sister.

But you want to avoid making a Sucker’s Choice. So you ask

yourself: “How can I tell her that I want to be compensated

fairly for the extra effort and expense I put in and keep a good


Learn to Look

You recognize a lack of Mutual Purpose-you’re both trying to

defend your actions rather than discuss the estate.

Make It Safe

Contrast to help your sister understand your purpose.

YOU: I don’t want to start an argument or try to make you

feel guilty. But I do want to talk about being compensated

for shouldering most of the responsibility over the last few

years. I love Mom, but it put quite a strain on me finan­

cially and emotionally.

SISTER: What makes you think you did so much more than I





Master My Stories

You’re telling yourself that you deserve more because you did

more to care for your mother and covered unplanned expenses.

Retrace your Path to Action to find out what facts are behind the

story you’re telling that’s making you angry.


You need to share your facts and conclusions with your sister in

a way that will make her feel safe telling her story.

YOU: It’s just that I spent a lot of money taking care of Mom

and did a lot of work caring for her instead of bringing in

a nurse. I know you cared about Mom too, but I honestly

feel like I did more in the day-to-day caregiving than you

did, and it only seems fair to use some of what she left us

to repay a part of what I spent. Do you see it differently?

I’d really like to hear.

SISTER: Okay, fine. Why don’t you just send me a bill.

It sounds as though your sister isn’t really okay with this

arrangement. You can tell her voice is tense and her tone is one

of giving in, not of true agreement.

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