For instance, “I asked you to finish up a task that absolutely
had to be completed before I returned from a trip. You ran into
a problem, tried to get in touch with me, and then simply left a
message with my four-year-old. What could you have done to
track me down on the road?” or “What would it have taken to
create a backup strategy?”
Pay attention to ways you are compensating for someone’s
lack of initiative. Have you made yourself responsible for fol
lowing up? If so, talk with that person about assuming this
responsibility. Have you asked more than one person to take the
same assignment so you can be sure it will get done? If so, talk
to the person originally assigned about reporting progress to you
early so you only need to put someone else on the job when
there’s a clear need for more resources.
Stop acting out your expectations that others won’t take initia
tive. Instead, talk your expectations out and come to agreements
YEAH, BUT 205
that place the responsibility on the team members while giving
you information early enough that you aren’t left high and dry.
SHOWS A PATTERN
IT ISN’T A SINGLE PROBLEM. It’s that I keep having to
talk with people about the same problem. I feel like I u YEA H, BUT…
have to choose between being a nag and putting up
with the problem. Now what?”
The Danger Point
Some crucial conversations go poorly because you’re having the
wrong conversations. You talk to someone who is late for a
meeting for the second time, Then the third. Your blood begins
to boil. Then you bite your lip and give another gentle reminder.
Finally, after your resentment builds up (because you’re telling
yourself an ugly story) , you become violent. You make a sarcas
tic or cutting comment and then end up looking stupid because
the reaction seems way out of line given the minor offense.
If you continue to return to the original problem (coming in
late) without talking about the new problem (failing to live up to
commitments), you’re stuck in “Groundhog Day.” We talk about
this problem using the Groundhog Day movie metaphor. If you
return to the same initial problem, you’re like Bill Murray in the
movie-you’re forced to relive the same situation over and over
rather than deal with the bigger problem. Nothing ever gets
Learn to Look for patterns. Don’t focus exclusively on a single
event. Watch fol’ behavior over time. Then STATE Your Path by
talking about t h(: pu1 t(:rn, Por example, if a person is late for
206 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
meetings and agrees to do better, the next conversation should
not be about tardiness. It should be about his or her failure to
keep a commitment. This is a bigger issue. It’s now about trust
People often become far more emotional than the issue they’re
discussing warrants because they’re talking about the wrong
issue. If you’re really bothered because of a pattern, but you’re
talking about this latest instance, your emotions will seem out of
proportion. In contrast, an interesting thing happens when you
hold the right conversation. Your emotions calm down. When
you talk about what’s really eating you-the pattern-you’ll be
able to be more composed and effective.
Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will
seem trivial. Talk about the overall pattern.
I NEED TIME TO CALM DOWN !
“YEAH, BUT . . .
IVE BEEN TOLD THAT I should never go to bed angry. Is
that always a good idea?”
The Danger Point
Once you’ve become angry, it’s not always easy to calm down.
You’ve told yourself an ugly story, your body has responded by
preparing for a fight, and now you’re trying your best not to
duke it out-only your body hasn’t caught up with your brain.
So what do you do? Do you try to stay in dialogue even though
your intuition tells you to back off and buy some time? After all,
Mom said, “Never go to bed angry.”
Okay, so your mom wasn’t exactly right. She was right by sug
gesting that you shouldn’t let serious problems go unresolved.
YEAH, BUT 207