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The sequential development of the subject matter in this book is brilliant. It moves you from understanding the supernal power


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of dialogue, to clarifying what you really want to have happen and focusing on what actually is happening, to creating conditions of safety, to using self-awareness and self-knowledge. And finally, it moves you to learning how to achieve such a level of mutual understanding and creative synergy that people are emotionally connected to the conclusions reached and are emotionally willing

and committed to effectively implementing them. In short, you move from creating the right mind- and heart-set to developing and utilizing the right skill-set.

In spite of the fact that I have spent many years writing and teaching similar ideas, I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired by this material-learning new ideas, going deeper into old ideas, seeing new applications, and broaden­ ing my understanding. I’ve also learned how these new techniques, skills, and tools work together in enabling crucial conversations that truly create a break with the mediocrity or mistakes of the past. Most breakthroughs in life truly are “break-withs.”

When I first put my hands on this book, I was delighted to see that dear friends and colleagues had drawn on their entire lives and professional experiences to not only address a tremendously important topic, but also to do it in a way that is so accessible, so

fun, so full of humor and illustration, so full of common sense and practicality. They show how to effectively blend and use both intellectual (1.0.) and emotional intelligence (E.O.) to enable crucial conversations.

I remember one of the authors having a crucial conversation with his professor in college. The professor felt that this student

was neither paying the price in class nor living up to his potential. This student, my friend, listened carefully, restated the professor’s

concern, expressed appreciation for the professor’s affirmation of his potential , and then smilingly and calmly said, “My focus is on




other priorities, and the class is just not that important to me at this time. I hope you can understand.” The teacher was taken

aback, but then started to listen. A dialogue took place, new understanding was achieved, and the bonding was deepened.

I know these authors to be outstanding individuals and remarkable teachers and consultants, and have even seen them work their magic in training seminars-but I didn’t know if they could take this complex topic and fit it into a book. They did. I

encourage you to really dig into this material, to pause and think deeply about each part and how the parts are sequenced. Then

apply what you’ve learned, go back to the book again, learn some more, and apply your new learnings. Remember, to know

and not to do is really not to know. I think you’ll discover, as have I, that crucial conversations, as

powerfully described in this book, reflect the insight of this excerpt of Robert Frost’s beautiful and memorable poem, “The

Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth; . . .

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I­

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Stephen R. Covey




We are deeply grateful to many.

First, to our colleagues at VitalSmarts, we express apprecia­ tion for creativity, discipline, competence, and friendship. Thanks to Charla Allen, James Allred, Mike Carter, Benson Dastrup, Kevin Koger, Kevin Sheehan, Jed Thompson, Mindy

Waite, and Yan Wang. Also we appreciate our colleagues for their indispensable help

in teaching and testing these ideas: Bemell Christensen, Larry Myler, Bev Roesch, and Steve Willis.

And to our associate friends who have worked hard to change lives and organizations with these concepts-and provided

invaluable feedback for refining them: Mike Allen, Karol Bailey, Pat Banks, Mike Cook, Brint Driggs, Simon Lia, Mike Miller, Jim

Munoa, Stacy Nelson, Larry Peters, Betsy Pickren, Mike Quinlan, Ron Ragain, James Sanwick, Kurt Southam, Neil Staker, Joe Thigpen, and Michael Thompson.

Thanks to our agent, Michael Broussard, for getting us the opportunity to share our message. And thanks to our editor, Nancy Hancock, a world-class partner in producing this book

and a master of crucial conversations. And one final, sweeping, large thanks. So many have helped

us over the years, that we add this admittedly blanket thanks to the clients, colleagues, friends, teachers, and associates on whose shoulders we stand.





The void created by the failure to communicate

is soon filled with poison, drive� and



What’s a Crucial

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