How? We’ve also suggested that whatever we do to invite the
other person to open up and share his or her path, our invitation
must be sincere. As hard as it sounds, we must be sincere in the
face of hostility, fear, or even abuse-which leads us to the next
What? What are we supposed to actually do? What does it
take to get others to share their path-stories and facts alike? In
a word, it requires listening. In order for people to move from
acting on their feelings to talking about their conclusions and
observations, we must listen in a way that makes it safe for oth
ers to share their intimate thoughts. They must believe that when
they share their thoughts, they won’t offend others or be pun
ished for speaking frankly.
To encourage others to share their paths we’ll use four power lis
tening tools that can help make it safe for other people to speak
frankly. We call the four skills power listening tools because they
are best remembered with the acronym AMPP-Ask, Mirror,
Paraphrase, and Prime. Luckily, the tools work for both silence
and violence games.
Ask to Get Th i ngs Rol l i ng
The easiest and most straightforward way to encourage others to
share their Path to Action is simply to invite them to express them
selves. For example, often all it takes to break an impasse is to seek
EXPLORE OTHERS’ PATHS 1 49
to understand others’ views. When we show genuine interest, peo
ple feel less compelled to use silence or violence. For example: “Do
you like my new dress, or are you going to call the modesty
police?” Wendy smirks.
“What do you mean?” you ask. “I’d like to hear your concerns.”
If you’re willing to step out of the fray and simply invite the
other person to talk about what’s really going on, it can go a long
way toward breaking the downward spiral and getting to the
source of the problem.
“What’s going on?”
“I’d really like to hear your opinion on this.”
“Please let me know if you see it differently.”
“Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I really want to
hear your thoughts.”
Mi rror to Confi rm Fee l i ngs
If asking others to share their path doesn’t open things up, mirror
ing can help build more safety. In mirroring, we take the portion of
the other person’s Path to Action we have access to and make it
safe for him or her to discuss it. All we have so far are actions and
some hints about the other person’s emotions, so we start there.
When we mirror, as the name suggests, we hold a mirror up
to the other person-describing how they look or act. Although
we may not understand others’ stories or facts, we can see their
actions and get clues about their feelings.
This particular tool is most useful when another person’s tone
or voice or gestures (hints about the emotions behind them) are
inconsistent with his or her words. For example: “Don’t worry.
I ‘m fine. ” (But the person in question is saying this with a look
t hat suggests he is actually quite upset. He’s frowning, looking
around , and sort of kicking at the ground. )
1 50 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
“Really? From the way you’re saying that, it doesn’t sound like
We explain that while the person may be saying one thing, his
or her tone of voice or body posture suggests something else. In
doing so, we show respect and concern for him or her.
The most important element of mirroring is our tone of voice.
It is not the fact that we are acknowledging others’ emotions that
creates safety. We create safety when our tone of voice says we’re
okay with them feeling the way they’re feeling. If we do this well,
they may conclude that rather than acting out their emotions,
they can confidently talk them out with us instead.
So as we describe what we see, we have to do so calmly. If we
act upset or as if we’re not going to like what others say, we don’t
build safety. We confirm their suspicions that they need to