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.
1 82 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
A MODEL OF DIALOGUE
To help organize our thinking and to make it easier to recall the
principles (and when to apply them), let’s look at the model
shown in Figure 1 0- 1 . It begins with concentric circles-like a
target. Notice that the center circle is the Pool of Shared
Meaning-it’s the center of the target, or the aim of dialogue.
When meaning flows freely, it finds its way into this pool, which
represents people’s best collective thinking.
Surrounding the Pool of Shared Meaning is safety. Safety
allows us to share meaning and keeps us from moving into
silence or violence. When conversations become crucial, safety
must be strong.
Watch for games. Next you’ll notice that we’ve portrayed the
behaviors to watch when thinking about safety. These are the six
silence and violence behaviors we look for in others and in out-
Figure 1 0- 1 . The Dialogue Model
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER 1 83
Figure 1 0-2. The Dialogue Model
breaks of our own Style Under Stress. When we see these or sim
ilar behaviors, we know that safety is weak. This is a cue to step
out of the content of the conversation, strengthen safety, and
then step back in. Remember, don’t back away or weaken the
argument. Just rebuild safety. Do it quickly. The further you
move from dialogue into silence or violence, the harder it is to
get back and the greater the costs.
Now, let’s add people to our model.
Me and Others. (Figure 1 0-2) . You are the “ME” arrow on the
model. Others are included in the “OTHER” arrow. The arrows
(both pointed to the center of the pool) show that both we and
others are in dialogue. All our meaning is flowing freely into the
shared pool. Learn to Look means we watch for when either of
these two arrows begins to point upward or downward, toward
silence or violence. When this happens, either you or others are
starting to play games.
Watching and building conditions. (Figure 1 0-3). When you