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One of the greatest tragedies is seeing someone with incredible

talent get derailed because he or she lacks some basic skills.

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Crucial Conversations addresses the number one reason execu­

tives derail, and it provides extremely helpful tools to operate in

a fast-paced, results-oriented environment.”

-Karie A. Willyerd, chief talent officer, Solectron

“The book prescribes, with structure and wit, a way to improve on

the most fundamental element of organizational learning and

growth-honest, unencumbered dialogue between individuals.

There are one or two of the many leadership/management

‘thought’ books on my shelf that are frayed and dog-eared from

use. Crucial Conversations will no doubt end up in the same con­


-John Gill, VP of Human Resources, Rolls Royce USA



Crucial Conversations




Crucial Conversations

Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High


Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny,

Ron McMillan, and AI Switzler


New York ChIcago San FrancIsco LIsbon

London Madrzd MexIco CIty MIlan New DelhI

San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto



Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Crucial Conversations : tools for talking when stakes are high / Kerry Patterson … [et al.].

p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-07-140194-6 1. International communication. 2. Interpersonal relations.

Patterson, Kerry, 1946-

BF637.C45.C78 153.6-dc21



A Division of The McGraw·Hill Companies �



Copyright © 2002 by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 DOC/DOC 0 9 8 7

ISBN 0-07-140194-6

This book was set in R Life Roman by Patricia Caruso of McGraw-Hill Professional’s DTP composition unit in Hightstown, N.J.

Printed and bound by R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company.

McGraw-Hill books are available at special quantity discounts to use as premiums and sales promotions, or for use in corporate training programs. For more information, please write to the Director of Special Sales, Professional Publishing, McGraw-Hill, Two Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121-2298. Or contact your local bookstore.



We dedicate this book to

Louise, Celia, Bonnie, and Linda-

whose support is abundant,

whose love is nourishin�

and whose patience is just shy of infinite.

And to our children

Christine, Rebecca, Taylofi Scott,

Aislinn, Carat Seth, Samue� Hyrum,

Ambefi Megan, Chase, Hayley, Bryn,

Ambefi Laura, Becca, Rachael, Benjamin,

Meridith, Lindsey, Kelley, Todd

who have been a wonderful source of learning.







CH. 1: What’s a Crucial Conversation?

And Who Cares? 1

CH. 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations

The Power of Dialogue 17

CH. 3: Start with Heart

How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want 27

CH. 4: Learn to Look

How to Notice When Safety Is at Risk 45

CH. 5: Make It Safe

How to Make It Safe to Talk about Almost Anything 65

CH. 6: Master My Stories

How to Stay in Dialogue When You ‘re Angry,

Scared, or Hurt 93




CH. 7: STATE My Path

How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively 119

CH. 8: Explore Others’ Paths

How to Listen When Others Blow Up or Clam Up 141

CH. 9: Move to Action

How to Turn Crucial Conversations

into Action and Results 161

CH. 10: Putting It All Together

Tools for Preparing and Learning 179

CH. 11: Yeah, But

Advice for Tough Cases 193

CH. 12: Change Your Life

How to Turn Ideas into Habits 215






This is a breakthrough book. That is exactly how I saw it when

I first read the manuscript. I so resonated with the importance, power, and timeliness of its message that I even suggested to the

authors that they title it “Breakthrough Conversations.” But as I read deeper, listened to the tapes, and experienced the insight borne of years of experience with this material, I came to under­

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