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think we’ve moved away from dialogue.” This simple reminder

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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.

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