Invent a Mutual Purpose
Sometimes when we recognize the purposes behind our strategies,
we discover that we actually have compatible goals. From there
you simply come up with common strategies. But we’re not always
so lucky. For example, you find out that your genuine wants and
goals cannot be served except at the expense of the other person’s.
I n this case you cannot discover a Mutual Purpose, so you must
actively invent one.
To invent a Mutual Purpose, move to more encompassing goals.
Find an objective that is more meaningful or more rewarding than
86 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
the ones that divide the various sides . For instance, you and your
spouse may not agree on whether or not you should take the pro
motion, but you can agree that the needs of your relationship
and the children come before career aspirations. By focusing on
higher and longer-term goals, you can find a way to transcend
short-term compromises, build Mutual Purpose, and get to dia
Once you’ve built safety by finding a shared purpose, you should
now have enough safety to return to the content of the conver
sation. It’s time to step back into the dialogue and brainstorm
strategies that meet everyone’s needs . If you’ve committed to
finding something everyone can agree on, and surfaced what you
really want, you’ll no longer be spending your energy on unpro
ductive conflict. Instead, you’ll be actively coming up with
options that can serve everyone.
Suspend judgment and think outside the box for new alterna
tives . Can you find a way to work in a job that is local and still
meets your career goals? Is this job with this company the only
thing that will make you happy? Is a move really necessary in
this new job? Is there another community that could offer your
family the same benefits? If you’re not willing to give creativity
a try, it’ll be impossible for you to jointly come up with a mutu
ally acceptable option. If you are, the sky’s the limit.
CRIB to Get to Mutual Purpose
So when you sense that you and others are working at cross
purposes, here’s what you can do. First, step out of the content
of the conflict. Stop focusing on who thinks what. Then CRIB
your way to Mutual Purpose.
MAKE IT SAFE 87
• Qommit to seek Mutual Purpose. Make a unilateral public
commitment to stay in the conversation until you come up
with something that serves everyone.
“This isn ‘t working. Your team is arguing to stay late and
work until we’re done, and my team wants to go home and
come back on the weekend. Why don’t we see if we can come
up with something that satisfies everyone?”
• Recognize the purpose behind the strategy. Ask people why
they want what they’re pushing for. Separate what they’re
demanding from the purpose it serves .
“Exactly why don ‘t you want to come in Saturday morning?
We’re feeling fatigued and are worried about safety issues and
a loss of quality. Why do you want to stay late? ”