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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.





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




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

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