Practice in a training session. For those of you who would like
more material and practice opportunities than you can extract
from a book and other static materials, attend one of our live
training seminars. Give us a call and see if you can either sched
ule a session at a location near you or bring the training into your
Our training materials library is equipped with a variety of
delivery tools ranging from leader-guided workshops to off-site
Enhance Your Motive
We all have ideas about how to motivate others, but how do you
motivate yourself? While you may feel 1 00 percent committed to
improving your crucial conversations right now, what can you do
when you’re staring at an angry coworker and your commitment
to improVIDent drops to, say, 1 0 percent?
The truth is that we often need to take steps to ensure that our
most well-founded wishes (those made during peaceful moments
where we’re taking an honest look at the future) survive turbu
lent, less forward-looking circumstances.
Apply incentives. Start with the obvious. Use incentives. For
example, people going through self-help courses are often
encouraged to put their money where their mouth is. Every time
they fulfill an assignment, they’re given back a portion of their
tuition. On the other hand, if they don’t step up, it costs them.
When incentives are added, results improve fairly dramatically.
So every time you deftly hold a crucial conversation, celebrate
your victory. Treat yourself to something you wouldn’t otherwise
enjoy. And don’t wait for perfection. Celebrate improvement. If
you used to get in a heated argument every time you brought up
a cel-tain problem. and now the interaction is merely tense, enjoy
224 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
the victory. Self-improvement is achieved by individuals who
appreciate direction more than those who demand perfection.
Apply disincentives. You might consider disincentives as well.
Take a look at what went on at Stanford a few years back.
Subjects who were trying to lose weight were asked to write a
donation check to an organization they despised. These checks
were then set aside, never to be mailed unless the subjects failed
to live up to their goals-at which point five hundred dollars
was sent to Americans for Nuclear Proliferation or something
equally distasteful to the subject. As predicted, subjects did bet
ter when they used disincentives.l
Go pUblic. Let others know that you’re trying to routinely
hold crucial conversations. Explain what you’re doing and why.
Over half a century ago, Dr. Kurt Lewin, the father of social psy
chology, learned that when subjects made a public commitment
to do something, they were more likely to stay the course than if
they kept their wishes to themselves.2 Tell people what your
goals are. Get social pressure working in your favor.
Talk with your boss. If you want to take it a step further, sit
down with your boss and explain your goals. Ask for his or her
support. If you want to put some real teeth into your goal, build
your plan into your performance review. As a leader, you’re almost
always asked to pick one “soft area” listed on your performance
review forms and work on it. Select dialogue. You might as well
tie your plans for improvement into the formal reward system.
Align your personal, family, and organizational goals to a single
goal-improving your dialogue skills.
Remember the costs; focus on the reward. Perhaps the most
predictive piece of social science research ever conducted was
completed with small children and marshmallows. A child was
put in a room and then told that he or she could have either one
marshmallow now or two if he or she was willing to wait until
the adult returned in a few minutes. The adult would then place
CHANGE YOUR LIFE 225
one marshmallow in front of the child and exit. Some of the chil
dren delayed gratification. Others ate the marshmallow right
away. Researchers continued studying these children.
Over the next several decades, the children who had delayed
gratification ended up doing far better in life than those who
hadn’t. They had stronger marriages, made more money, and
were healthier.3 This willingness to do without now in order to
achieve more later turns out to be an all-purpose tool for success.
How did the children who were able to delay gratification
fight off their short-term wishes? First, they looked away from
the scrumptious marshmallow that sat in front of them. No use
torturing themselves with the vision of what they couldn’t have.
Second, they kept telling themselves that if they waited, they
would get two, not one. What could be simpler?
As you step up to a crucial conversation and wonder if it’s
really worth trying out something new and untested, remind
yourself why you’re trying new skills in the first place. Focus on
improved results. Remember what happens when you fall back
on your old methods.