the presentation-and realized in retrospect that he shouldn’t
have done this without her. He also apologized for dominating
during the presentation. Maria learned from the conversation
that Louis tends to talk more when he gets nervous. He sug
gested that they each be responsible for either the first or sec
ond half of the presentation and stick to their assignments so he
would be less likely to crowd her out. The discussion ended
with both of them understanding the other’s perspective and
Louis promising to be more sensitive in the future.
SUMMARY- MASTER MY STORIES
If strong emotions are keeping you stuck in silence or violence,
Retrace Your Path
Notice your behavior. If you find yourself moving away from
dialogue, ask yourself what you’re really doing.
• Am I in some form of silence or violence?
Get in touch with your feelings. Learn to accurately identify
the emotions behind your story.
• What emotions are encouraging me to act this way?
Analyze your stories. Question your conclusions and look for
other possible explanations behind your story.
• What story is creating these emotions?
Get back to the facts. Abandon your absolute certainty by dis
t inguishing between hard facts and your invented story.
• What evidence do I have to support this story?
1 1 8 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
Watch for clever stories. Victim, Villain, and Helpless Stories
sit at the top of the list.
Tell the Rest of the Story
• Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
• Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?
• What do I really want?
• What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?
Outspoken by whom? -DOROTHY PARKBR
WHEN TOLD THAT SHE WAS WRY OUTSPOKEN
STATE My Path How to Speak Persuasivel}/t
So far we’ve gone to great pains to prepare ourselves for crucial
conversations. Here’s what we’ve learned. Our hearts need to be
in the right place. We need to pay close attention to crucial
conversations-particularly when people start feeling unsafe.
And heaven forbid that we should tell ourselves clever and
So let’s say that we are well prepared. We’re ready to open our
mouths and start sharing our pool of meaning. That’s right,
we’re actually going to talk. Now what?
Most of the time we walk into a discussion and slide into
autopilot. “Hi, how are the kids? What’s going on at work?”
What could be easier than talking? We know thousands of words
1 20 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
and generally weave them into conversations that suit our needs.
Most of the time.
However, when stakes rise and our emotions kick in, well,
that’s when we open our mouths and don’t do so well. In fact, as
we suggested earlier, the more important the discussion, the less
likely we are to be on our best behavior. More specifically, we
advocate or express our views quite poorly.
To help us improve our advocacy skills, we’ll examine two
challenging situations. First, we’ll look at five skills for talking
when what we have to say could easily make others defensive.
Second, we’ll explore how these same skills help us state our
opinions when we believe so strongly in something that we risk
shutting others down rather than opening them up to our ideas.
SHARING RISKY MEANING
Adding information to the pool of meaning can be quite difficult
when the ideas we’re about to dump into the collective conscious
ness contain delicate, unattractive, or controversial opinions.
“I’m sorry, Marta, but people simply don’t like working with
you. You’ve been asked to leave the special-projects team.”
It’s one thing to argue that your company needs to shift from
green to red packaging; it’s quite another to tell a person that he
or she is offensive or unlikable or has a controlling leadership
style. When the topic turns from things to people, it’s always
more difficult, and to nobody’s surprise, some people are better
at it than others.
When it comes to sharing touchy information, the worst alter
nate between bluntly dumping their ideas into the pool and say
ing nothing at all. Either they start with: “You’re not going to like
this, but, hey, somebody has to be honest . . . ” (a classic Sucker’s
Choice), or they simply stay mum.
STATE MY PATH 1 2 1
Fearful they could easily destroy a healthy relationship, those
who are good at dialogue say some of what’s on their minds but
understate their views out of fear of hurting others. They talk,
but they sugarcoat their message.
The best at dialogue speak their minds completely and do it in
a way that makes it safe for others to hear what they have to say
and respond to it as well. They are both totally frank and com
In order to speak honestly when honesty could easily offend oth
ers, we have to find a way to maintain safety. That’s a bit like
telling someone to smash another person in the nose, but, you
know, don’t hurt him. How can we speak the unspeakable and still
maintain respect? Actually, it can be done if you know how to
carefully blend three ingredients-confidence, humility, and skill.
Confidence. Most people simply won’t hold delicate conversa
tions-well, at least not with the right person. For instance, your
colleague Brian goes home at night and tells his wife that his boss,
Fernando, is micromanaging him to within an inch of his life. He
says the same thing over lunch when talking with his pals. Every
one knows what Brian thinks about Fernando-except, of course,