PUITING IT ALL TOGETHER 1 8 1
think we’ve moved away from dialogue.” This simple reminder
helps people catch themselves early on, before the damage is severe.
As we’ve watched executive teams, work groups, and couples sim
ply go public with the fact that they’re starting to move toward
silence or violence, others often recognize the problem and take
corrective action. “You’re right. I’m not telling you what needs to
be said,” or “I’m sorry. I have been trying to force my ideas on you.”
Make It Safe. The second lever is Make It Safe. We’ve sug
gested that dialogue consists of the free flow of meaning and that
the number one flow stopper is a lack of safety. When you notice
that you and others have moved away from dialogue, do some
thing to make it safer. Anything. We’ve suggested a few skills,
but those are merely a handful of common practices. They’re not
immutable principles. To no one’s surprise, there many things
you can do to increase safety. If you simply realize that your chal
lenge is to make it safer, nine out of ten times you’ll intuitively
do something that helps.
Sometimes you’ll build safety by asking a question and show
ing interest in others’ views. Sometimes an appropriate touch
(with loved ones and family members-not at work where
touching can equate with harassment) can communicate safety.
Apologies, smiles, even a request for a brief “time out” can help
restore safety when things get dicey. The main idea is to make it
safe. Do something to make others comfortable. And remember,
virtually every skill we’ve covered in this book, from Contrasting
to CRIB, offers a tool for building safety.
These two levers form the basis for recognizing, building, and
maintaining dialogue. When the concept of dialogue is intro
duced, these are the ideas most people can readily take in and
apply to crucial conversations. Now let’s move on to a discussion
uf the rest of the principles we’ve covered.