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Each skill helps rebuild either Mutual Respect or Mutual

Purpose. First, we’ll study them in action. Then, we’ll see if they

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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

nation.

Ouch.

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

factory tour.

“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

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