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You want to create a definite plan for being reimbursed for these

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expenses, and you want it to be one you both agree on. Come to

a consensus about what will happen, and document who does

what by when, and settle on a way to follow up.

You: I’ve kept a record of all the expenses that went over

the amount that both of us agreed to contribute. Can we

sit down tomorrow to go over those and talk about what’s

fair to reimburse me for?

SISTER: Okay. We’ll talk about the estate and write up a plan

for how to divide things up.


If we first learn to recognize when safety is at risk and a conver­

sation becomes crucial (Learn to Look) and that we need to take

steps to Make It Safe for everyone to contribute his or her mean­

ing, we can begin to see where to apply the skills we’ve learned.

A visual model can also help us see where the principles and

skills are needed.

Using these tools and reminders will get us started in master­

ing the skills that help us improve our crucial conversations.



1 1

A man surprised is half beaten. -THOMAS FULLER

Yeah, But Advice for Tough Cases

As we (the authors) have taught this material, we’ve grown

accustomed to people saying, “Yeah, but my situation’s more dif­

ficult than that ! ” Or “Yeah, but the people I deal with aren’t so

quick to come around. Besides, most of the problems I face come

as a surprise. I’m caught off guard.” In short, people can think

of a dozen reasons why the skills we’ve been talking about don’t

apply to the situations they care about.

• “Yeah, but what if someone does something that’s really sub­

tle? It drives you crazy but it’s hard to identify. How do you

handle that?”

• “Yeah, but what if my life partner refuses to ever talk about

anything impurtant? You can’t force a person into dialogue.”




• “Yeah, but what if I can’t calm down quickly enough? I’ve

been told not to go to bed angry, but sometimes I think I need

time alone. What should I do?”

• “Yeah, but what if I don’t trust the other person? How am I

supposed to deal with that?”

• “Yeah, but both my boss and spouse are too sensitive to take

any feedback. Shouldn’t I just let things slide?”

In truth, the dialogue skills we’ve shared apply to just about

any problem you can imagine. However, since some are more dif­

ficult than others, we’ve chosen seventeen tough cases. We’ll

take a moment to share a thought or two on each.





anything, but I don’t like the way I’m being treated.

How can I bring it up without making enemies?”

The Danger Point

Someone is making comments or gestures that you find offen­

sive. The person does it seldom enough and he or she’s subtle

enough that you’re not sure if HR or your boss can even help.

What can you do?

In these situations it’s easy to think that the offender has all

the power. It seems as if the rules of polite society make it so that

others can behave inappropriately and you end up looking like

you’re overreacting if you bring it up.

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