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How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively 119

CH. 8: Explore Others’ Paths

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How to Listen When Others Blow Up or Clam Up 141

CH. 9: Move to Action

How to Turn Crucial Conversations

into Action and Results 161

CH. 10: Putting It All Together

Tools for Preparing and Learning 179

CH. 11: Yeah, But

Advice for Tough Cases 193

CH. 12: Change Your Life

How to Turn Ideas into Habits 215






This is a breakthrough book. That is exactly how I saw it when

I first read the manuscript. I so resonated with the importance, power, and timeliness of its message that I even suggested to the

authors that they title it “Breakthrough Conversations.” But as I read deeper, listened to the tapes, and experienced the insight borne of years of experience with this material, I came to under­

stand why it is titled Crucial Conversations.

From my own work with organizations, including families,

and from my own experience, I have come to see that there are

a few defining moments in our lives and careers that make all the difference. Many of these defining moments come from

“crucial” or “breakthrough” conversations with important peo­

ple in emotionally charged situations where the decisions made take us down one of several roads, each of which leads to an

entirely different destination.

I can see the wisdom in the assertion of the great historian Arnold Toynbee, who said that you can pretty well summarize all of history-not only of society, but of institutions and of people­ in four words: Nothing fails like success. In other words, when a challenge in life is met by a response that is equal to it, you have success. But when the challenge moves to a higher level,

the old, once successful response no longer works-it fails; thus, nothing fails like success.




The challenge has noticeably changed for our lives, our fami­ lies, and our organizations. Just as the world is changing at

frightening speed and has become increasingly and profoundly interdependent with marvelous and dangerous technologies, so, too, have the stresses and pressures we all experience exponen­

tially increased. This charged atmosphere makes it all the more imperative that we nourish our relationships and develop tools, skills, and enhanced capacity to find new and better solutions to

our problems. These newer, better solutions will not represent “my way” or

“your way”-they will represent “our way.” In short, the solu­ tions must be synergistic, meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Such synergy may manifest itself in a bet­ ter decision, a better relationship, a better decision-making process, increased commitment to implement decisions made,

or a combination of two or more of these. What you learn is that “crucial conversations” transform peo­

ple and relationships. They are anything but transacted; they create an entirely new level of bonding. They produce what Buddhism calls “the middle way” -not a compromise between two opposites on a straight-line continuum, but a higher middle

way, like the apex of a triangle. Because two or more people

have created something new from genuine dialogue, bonding takes place-just like the bonding that takes place in family or

marriage when a new child is created. When you produce some­ thing with another person that is truly creative, it’s one of the most powerful forms of bonding there is. In fact the bonding is so strong that you simply would not be disloyal in his or her

absence, even if there were social pressure to join others in bad­ mouthing.

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