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six sharp minds.” Don’t leave your hard work to memory. If

you’ve gone to the effort to complete a crucial conversation,

don’t fritter away all the meaning you created by trusting your

memories. Write down the details of conclusions, decisions, and

assignments. Remember to record who does what by when.

Revisit your notes at key times (usually the next meeting) and

review assignments.

As you review what was supposed to be completed, hold peo­

ple accountable. When someone fails to deliver on a promise, it’s

t ime for dialogue. Discuss the issue by using the STATE skills we

covered in Chapter 7. By holding people accountable, not only

do you increase their motivation and ability to deliver on prom­

ises. but you create a culture of integrity.





Turn your successful crucial conversations into great decisions

and united action by avoiding the two traps of violated expecta­

tions and inaction.

Decide How to Decide

• Command. Decisions are made without involving others.

• Consult. Input is gathered from the group and then a subset


• Vote. An agreed-upon percentage swings the decision.

• Consensus. Everyone comes to an agreement and then sup­

ports the final decision.

Finish Clearly

Determine who does what by when . Make the deliverables crys­

tal clear. Set a follow-up time. Record the commitments and then

follow up. Finally, hold people accountable to their promises.



1 0

Communication works for those who work at it.


Putting It Al l

Together Tools for Preparing

and Learning

If you read the previous pages in a short period of time, you

probably feel like an anaconda who just swallowed a warthog.

It’s a lot to digest.

You may well be wondering at this point how you can possi­

bly keep all these ideas straight -especially during something as

unpredictable and fast moving as a crucial conversation.

This chapter will help with the daunting task of making dia­

logue tools and skills memorable and useable. First, we’ll sim­

plify things by sharing what we’ve heard from people who have

L:hanged their lives by using these skills. Second, we’ll lay out a

model that can help you visually organize the seven dialogue

principles. Third, wc’ l I walk through an example of a crucial

convcrsation where al l t he d ia logue principles are applied.





Over the years, people often tell us that the principles and skills

contained in this book have helped them a great deal. But how?

In what way can the printed word lead to important changes?

After watching people at home and at work, as well as inter­

viewing them, we’ve learned that most people make progress not

by focusing on specific skills-at least to start with-but instead

by applying two of the main principles in this book. We hope

that as we share their success strategies with you, you’ll feel

more confident getting started on the road to improved results

and relationships.

Learn to Look. The first lever for positive change is Learn to

Look. That is, people who improve their dialogue skills continu­

ally ask themselves whether they’re in or out of dialogue. This

alone makes a huge difference. Even people who can’t remember

or never learned the skills of STATE or CRIB, etc., are able to

benefit from this material by simply asking if they’re falling into

silence or violence. They may not know exactly how to fix the

specific problem they’re facing, but they do know that if they’re

not in dialogue, it can’t be good. And then they try something to

get back to dialogue. As it turns out, trying something is better

than doing nothing.

So remember to ask the following important question: “Are

we playing games or are we in dialogue?” It’s a wonderful start.

Many people get additional help in learning to look from their

friends. They go through training as families or teams. As they

share concepts and ideas, they learn a common vocabulary. This

shared way of talking about crucial conversations helps people


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