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In fact, with experience and maturity we learn to worry less

about others’ intent and more about the effect others’ actions are

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having on us. No longer are we in the game of rooting out

unhealthy motives. And here’s the good news. When we reflect

on alternative motives, not only do we soften our emotions, but

equally important, we relax our absolute certainty long enough

to allow for dialogue-the only reliable way of discovering oth­

ers’ genuine motives.

Turn the helpless into the able. Finally, when you catch your­

self bemoaning your own helplessness, you can tell the complete

story by returning to your original motive. To do so, stop and ask:

• What do I really want? For me? For others? For the relation­


Then, kill the Sucker’s Choice that’s made you feel helpless to

choose anything other than silence or violence. Do this by asking:

• What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?




For example, you now find yourself insulting your coworker

for not pitching in with a tough job. Your coworker seems sur­

prised at your strong and “out of the blue” reaction. In fact, she’s

staring at you as if you’ve slipped a cog. You, of course, have told

yourself that she is purposefully avoiding noxious tasks, and that

despite your helpful hints, she has made no changes.

“I have to get brutal,” you tell yourself. “I don’t like it, but if

1 don’t offend her, I’ll be stuck doing the grunt work forever.”

You’ve strayed from what you really want-to share work

equally and to have a good relationship. You’ve given up on half

of your goals by making a Sucker’s Choice. “Oh well, better to

offend her than to be made a fool.”

What should you be doing instead? Openly, honestly, and

effectively discussing the problem-not taking potshots and

then justifying yourself. When you refuse to make yourself help­

less, you’re forced to hold yourself accountable for using your

dialogue skills rather than bemoaning your weakness.


To see how this all fits together, let’s circle back to Maria. Let’s

assume she’s retraced her Path to Action and separated the facts

from the stories. Doing this has helped her realize that the story

she told was incomplete, defensive, and hurtful. When she

watched for the Three Clever Stories, she saw them with painful

clarity. Now she’s ready to tell the rest of the story. So she asks


• Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?

“When I found out that Louis was holding project meetings

without me, I felt like I should ask him about why I wasn ‘t

included. I believed that if I did, I could open a dialogue that

would help us work better together. But then I didn ‘t, and as




my resentment grew, [ was even less interested in broaching

the subject. ”

• Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what

Louis is doing?

“He really cares about producing good-quality work. Maybe

he doesn ‘t realize that I’m as committed to the success of the

project as he is. ”

• What do I really want?

“[ want a respectful relationship with Louis. And [ want

recognition for the work [ do. ”

• What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?

”I’d make an appointment to sit down with Louis and talk

about how we work together. ”

As we tell the rest of the story, we free ourselves from the poi­

soning effects of unhealthy emotions. Best of all, as we regain

control and move back to dialogue, we become masters of our

own emotions rather than hostages.

And what about Maria? What did she actually do? She sched­

uled a meeting with Louis. As she prepared for the meeting, she

refused to feed her ugly and incomplete stories, admitted her

own role in the problem, and entered the conversation with an

open mind. Perhaps Louis wasn’t trying to make her appear bad

or fill in for her incompetence.

As Maria sat down with Louis, she found a way to tentatively

share what she had observed. (We’ll look at exactly how to do

this in the next chapter.) Fortunately, not only did Maria master

her story, but she knew how to talk about it as well. While

engaging in healthy dialogue, Louis apologized for not includ­

ing her in meetings with the boss. He explained that he was try­

ing to give the boss a heads-up on some controversial parts of




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