Each skill helps rebuild either Mutual Respect or Mutual
Purpose. First, we’ll study them in action. Then, we’ll see if they
might help Yvonne get things back on track.
Where were you ? You’re talking with a group of hourly em
ployees who worked all night preparing for a factory tour. You
were supposed to bring the division vice president by, and the
team members were then going to update him on a new process
they’ve put into place. They’re proud of some improvements
they’ve recently made-enough so that they willingly worked
straight through the night to finish the last details.
Unfortunately, when it came time to swing by their area, the
visiting VP dropped a bomb. He laid out a plan you’re convinced
MAKE IT SAFE 75
would hurt quality and potentially drive away your biggest cus
tomers. Since you only had another hour with the VP, you chose
to talk through the issue rather than conduct the tour. Your
future depended on that particular conversation. Fortunately,
you were able to avert the plan. Unfortunately, you forgot to get
word to the team that had worked so hard.
As you walked back to your office after escorting the execu
tive to his car, you bumped into the team. Bleary-eyed and disap
pointed, all six of them were now fuming. No visit, no phone
call, and now it was clear from the way you were sprinting on by
that you weren’t even going to stop and give them a simple expla
That’s when things started turning ugly. “We pulled an all
nighter, and you didn’t even bother to come by! That’s the last
time we’re busting our hump for you !”
Time stands still. This conversation has just turned crucial.
The employees who had worked so hard are obviously upset.
They feel disrespected.
But you miss that point. Why? Because now you feel disre
spected. They’ve attacked you. So you stay stuck in the content
of the conversation-thinking this has something to do with the
“I had to choose between the future of the company and the
plant tour. 1 chose our future, and I’d do it again if 1 had to.”
Now both you and they are fighting for respect. This is getting
you nowhere fast. But what else could you do?
Instead of getting hooked and fighting back, break the cycle.
Sec their aggressive behavior for what it is-a sign of violated
sa rety-then step out of the conversation, build safety, and step
back into the content. Here’s how.
76 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
Apologize When Appropriate
When you’ve made a mistake that has hurt others (e.g., you didn’t
call the team) , start with an apology. An apology is a statement
that sincerely expresses your sorrow for your role in causing-or
at least not preventing-pain or difficulty to others.
”I’m sorry I didn’t give you a call when I learned that we
wouldn’t be coming by. You worked all night, it would have
been a wonderful chance to showcase your improvements,
and I didn’t even explain what happened. I apologize.”
Now, an apology isn’t really an apology unless you experience a
change in heart. To offer a sincere apology, your motives have to
change. You have to give up saving face, being right, or winning
in order to focus on what you really want. You have to sacrifice a
bit of your ego by admitting your error. But like many sacrifices,
when you give up something you value, you’re rewarded with
something even more valuable-healthy dialogue and better
results. Then watch to see if this sincere show of respect has
helped restore safety. If it has, you can now explain the details of
what happened. If it hasn’t, you’ll need to use one of the more
advanced skills that follow in the next few pages. In any case, first
make it safe; then return to the issue.
When your behavior has given someone clear cause to doubt
your respect or commitment to Mutual Purpose, your conversa
tion will end up in silly game-playing