Sometimes it feels dangerous to sincerely explore the views of
someone whose path is wildly different from your own. He or
she could be completely wrong, and we’re acting calm and col
lected. This makes us nervous.
To keep ourselves from feeling nervous while exploring others’
paths-no matter how different or wrong they seem-remember
we’re trying to understand their point of view, not necessarily
agree with it or support it. Understanding doesn’t equate with
agreement. By coming to understand another person’s Path to
Action, we are not accepting it as absolute truth. There will be
plenty of time later for us to share our path as well. For now,
wc’re merely trying to get at what others think in order to under
stand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling and doing what
t hey’rc doing.
1 54 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
EXPLORING WENDY’S PATH
Now let’s put the several skills together in a single interaction. We’ll
return to Wendy. She has just come home from a date with the guy
who has you frightened. You yank the door open, pull Wendy into
the house, and double-bolt your entrance. Then you talk, sort of.
WENDY: How could you embarrass me like that ! 1 get one
boy to like me, and now he’ll never talk to me again! 1
You: That wasn’t a boy. That was a future inmate. You’re
worth more than that. Why are you wasting your time
WENDY: You’re ruining my life. Leave me alone!
After Wendy’s bedroom door slams shut, you drop down
into a chair in the living room. Your emotions are running
wild. You’re terrified about what could happen if Wendy con
tinues to see this guy. You’re hurt that she said she hated you.
You feel that your relationship with her is spiraling out of
So you ask yourself, “What do 1 really want?” As you mull this
question over, your motives change. The goals of controlling
Wendy and defending your pride drop from the top to the bottom
of your list. The goal that’s now at the top looks a bit more inspir
ing: “I want to understand what she’s feeling. 1 want a good rela
tionship with Wendy. And I want her to make choices that will
make her happy.”
You’re not sure if tonight is the best or worst time to talk, but you
know that talking is the only path forward. So you give it a shot.
You: (Tapping on door.) Wendy? May I talk with you
EXPLORE OTHERS’ PATHS 1 55
(You enter her room and sit on her bed. )
YOU: I’m really sorry for embarrassing you like that. That
was a bad way to handle it. [Apologize to build safety]
WENDY: It’s just that you do that a lot. It’s like you want to
control everything in my life.
YOU: Can we talk about that? [Ask]
WENDY: (Sounding angry) It’s no big deal. You’re the par
YOU: From the way you say that, it sounds like it is a big
deal. [Mirror] I really would like to hear what makes you
think I’m trying to control your life. [Ask]
WENDY: What, so you can tell me more ways that I’m
screwed up? I’ve finally got one friend who accepts me,
and you’re trying to chase him away!
YOU: So you feel like I don’t approve of you, and your friend
is one person who does? [Paraphrase]
WENDY: It’s not just you. All my friends have lots of boys
who like them. Doug’s the first guy who’s even called me.
I don’t know-never mind.
YOU: I can see how you’d feel badly when others are getting
attention from boys and you aren’t. I’d probably feel the
same way. [Paraphrase]
WENDY: Then how could you embarrass me like that? !
YOU: Honey, I’d like to take a stab at something here. I won
der if part of the reason you’ve started dressing differently
and hanging out with different friends is because you’re
not feeling cared about and valued by boys, by your par
ents, and by others right now. Is that part of it? [Prime]
WEN DY: (Sits quietly for a long time) Why am I so ugly? I
real ly work on how I look but . . .
1 56 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
From here, the conversation goes to the real issues, parent and
daughter discuss what’s really going on, and both come to a better
understanding of each other.