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the presentation-and realized in retrospect that he shouldn’t

have done this without her. He also apologized for dominating

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the presentation-and realized in retrospect that he shouldn’t have done this without her. He also apologized for dominating
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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.


If strong emotions are keeping you stuck in silence or violence,

try this.

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?




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


STATE My Path How to Speak Persuasivel}/t

Not Abrasively

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

unhelpful stories.

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




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.


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.




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

pletely respectful.


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,


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