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Some Common Crucial Conversations

In each of these examples of unhealthy self-perpetuation, the

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stakes were moderate to high, opinions varied, and emotions ran strong. Actually, to be honest, in a couple of the examples the stakes were fairly low at first, but with time and growing emo­ tions, the relationship eventually turned sour and quality of life suffered-making the risks high.

These examples, of course, are merely the tip of an enormous

and ugly iceberg of problems stemming from crucial conversations




that either have been avoided or have gone wrong. Other topics that could easily lead to disaster include

• Ending a relationship

• Talking to a coworker who behaves offensively or makes sugges­ tive comments

• Asking a friend to repay a loan

• Giving the boss feedback about her behavior

• Approaching a boss who is breaking his own safety or quality


• Critiquing a colleague’s work

• Asking a roommate to move out

• Resolving custody or visitation issues with an ex-spouse

• Dealing with a rebellious teen

• Talking to a team member who isn’t keeping commitments

• Discussing problems with sexual intimacy

• Confronting a loved one about a substance abuse problem

• Talking to a colleague who is hoarding infonnation or resources

• Giving an unfavorable performance review

• Asking in-laws to quit interfering

• Talking to a coworker about a personal hygiene problem


Let’s say that either you avoid tough issues or when you do bring

them up, you’re on your worst behavior. What’s the big deal? How high are the stakes anyway? Do the consequences of a fouled-up conversation extend beyond the conversation itself?

Should you worry?




Actually, the effects of conversations gone bad can be both devastating and far reaching. Our research has shown that strong

relationships, careers, organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power-the ability to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics.

So here’s the audacious claim. Master your crucial conversa­ tions and you’ll kick-start your career, strengthen your relation­ ships, and improve your health. As you and others master high­ stakes discussions, you’ll also vitalize your organization and your community.

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