Invent a Mutual Purpose. If after clarifying everyone’s pur
poses you are still at odds, see if you can invent a higher or
longer-term purpose that is more motivating than the ones
that keep you in conflict.
“I certainly don ‘t want to make winners and losers here. It’s
far better if we can come up with something that doesn ‘t make
one team resent the other one. We’ve voted before or flipped a
coin, and the losers just ended up resenting the winners. I’m
more worried about how we feel about each other than any
thing else. Let’s make sure that whatever we do, we don ‘t
drive a wedge in our working relationship. ”
• B.rainstorm new strategies. With a clear Mutual Purpose, you
can join forces in searching for a solution that serves everyone.
“So we need to come up with something that doesn’t jeopard
ize safety and quality and allows your team to attend their col
league’s wedding on Saturday. My team members don ‘t care
abuut the game a bit. What if we were to work the morning and
88 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
early afternoon, and then you come in after the game and take
over from there? That way we’ll be able . . . ”
BACK TO YVONNE AND JOTHAM
Let’s end where we started. Yvonne is going to try to move to
dialogue with Jotham. Let’s see how she does at making it safe in
her crucial conversation. First, she’ll use Contrasting to prevent
misunderstanding of her purpose.
YVONNE: Jotham, I’d like to talk about our physical relation
ship. I’m not doing it to put you on the spot or to suggest
the problem is yours. I’m completely clear that it’s as
much my problem as yours. I’d really like to talk about
it so we can make things better for both of us.
JOTHAM: What’s there to talk about? You don’t want it. I
want it. I’ll try to deal with it.
YVONNE: I think it’s more complicated than that. The way
you act sometimes makes me want to be with you even less.
JOTHAM: If that’s how you feel, why are we pretending we
have a relationship at all?
Okay, what just happened? Remember, we’re exploring
Yvonne’s side of the conversation. She’s the one initiating the
talk. Clearly there’s a lot Jotham could be doing to make things go
better. But she’s not Jotham. What should Yvonne do? She should
focus on what she really wants: to find a way to make things bet
ter for both of them. Consequently, she shouldn’t respond to the
content of Jotham’s discouraging statement. Rather, she should
look at the safety issue behind it. Why is Jotham starting to with
draw from the conversation? Two reasons:
• The way Yvonne made her point sounded to him like she was
blaming him for everything.
MAKE IT SAFE 89