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STATE MY PATH

I f Carole’s goal is to have a healthy conversation about a tough

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STATE MY PATH I f Carole’s goal is to have a healthy conversation about a tough top ic (e.g. , I think you ‘re having an affair), her only hope is to
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top ic (e.g. , I think you ‘re having an affair), her only hope is to

 

 

1 24 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS

stay in dialogue. That holds true for anybody with any crucial

conversation (i.e., It feels like you micromanage me; I fear you’re

using drugs). That means that despite your worst suspicions, you

shouldn’t violate respect. In a similar vein, you shouldn’t kill

safety with threats and accusations.

So what should you do? Start with Heart. Think about what you

really want and how dialogue can help you get it. And master your

story-realize that you may be jumping to a hasty Victim, Villain,

or Helpless Story. The best way to fmd out the true story is not to

act out the worst story you can generate. That will lead to self­

destructive silence and violence games. Think about other possible

explanations long enough to temper your emotions so you can get

to dialogue. Besides, if it turns out you’re right about your initial

impression, there will be plenty of time for confrontations later on.

Once you’ve worked on yourself to create the right conditions

for dialogue, you can then draw upon five distinct skills that can

help you talk about even the most sensitive topics. These five tools

can be easily remembered with the acronym STATE. It stands for:

• Share your facts

• Tell your story

• Ask for others’ paths

• Talk tentatively

• E.ncourage testing

The first three skills describe what to do. The last two tell how

to do it.

The “What” Ski lls

,Share Your Facts

In the last chapter we suggested that if you retrace your Path to

Action to the source, you eventual ly arrive at the (“acts. For

 

 

STATE MY PATH 1 2 5

example, Carole found the credit card invoice. That’s a fact. She

then told a story-Bob’s having an affair. Next, she felt betrayed

and horrified. Finally, she attacked Bob-“I should never have

married you! ” The whole interaction was fast, predictable, and

very ugly.

What if Carole took a different route-one that started with

facts? What if she were able to suspend the ugly story she told her­

self (perhaps think of an alternative story) and then start her con­

versation with the facts? Wouldn’t that be a safer way to go?

“Maybe,” she muses, “there is a good reason behind all of this.

Why don’t I start with the suspicious bill and then go from there?”

If she started there, she’d be right. The best way to share your

view is to follow your Path to Action from beginning to end­

the same way you traveled it (Figure 7-1 ) . Unfortunately, when

we’re drunk on adrenaline, our tendency is to do precisely the

opposite. Since we’re obsessing on our emotions and stories,

that’s what we start with. Of course, this is the most controver­

sial, least influential, and most insulting way we could begin.

To make matters worse, this strategy creates still another self­

fulfilling prophecy. We’re so anxious to blurt out our ugly stories

See! Tell a Feel Hear –… Story –…

Figure 7-1 . The Path to Action

 

 

1 26 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS

that we say things in extremely ineffective ways. Then, when

we get bad results (and we are going to get bad results), we tell

ourselves that we just can’t share risky views without creating

problems. So the next time we’ve got something sticky to say,

we’re even more reluctant to say it. We hold it inside where the

story builds up steam, and when we do eventually share our

horrific story, we do so with a vengeance. The cycle starts all

over again.

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