Learn to Look for patterns. Don’t focus exclusively on a single
event. Watch fol’ behavior over time. Then STATE Your Path by
talking about t h(: pu1 t(:rn, Por example, if a person is late for
206 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
meetings and agrees to do better, the next conversation should
not be about tardiness. It should be about his or her failure to
keep a commitment. This is a bigger issue. It’s now about trust
People often become far more emotional than the issue they’re
discussing warrants because they’re talking about the wrong
issue. If you’re really bothered because of a pattern, but you’re
talking about this latest instance, your emotions will seem out of
proportion. In contrast, an interesting thing happens when you
hold the right conversation. Your emotions calm down. When
you talk about what’s really eating you-the pattern-you’ll be
able to be more composed and effective.
Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will
seem trivial. Talk about the overall pattern.
I NEED TIME TO CALM DOWN !
“YEAH, BUT . . .
IVE BEEN TOLD THAT I should never go to bed angry. Is
that always a good idea?”
The Danger Point
Once you’ve become angry, it’s not always easy to calm down.
You’ve told yourself an ugly story, your body has responded by
preparing for a fight, and now you’re trying your best not to
duke it out-only your body hasn’t caught up with your brain.
So what do you do? Do you try to stay in dialogue even though
your intuition tells you to back off and buy some time? After all,
Mom said, “Never go to bed angry.”
Okay, so your mom wasn’t exactly right. She was right by sug
gesting that you shouldn’t let serious problems go unresolved.
YEAH, BUT 207
She was wrong about always sticking with a discussion, no mat
ter your emotional state. It’s perfectly okay to suggest that you
need some time alone and that you’d like to pick up the discus
sion later on-say, tomorrow. Then, after you’ve dissipated the
adrenaline and have had time to think about the issues, hold the
conversation. Coming to mutual agreement to take a time-out is
not the same thing as going to silence. In fact, it’s a very healthy
example of dialogue.
As a sidenote on this topic, it’s not such a good idea to tell oth
ers that they need to calm down or that they need to take some
time out. They may need the time, but it’s hard to suggest it with
out coming off as patronizing. “Take ten minutes, calm down,
and then get back to me.” With others, get back to the source of
their anger. Retrace their Path to Action.
“YEAH, BUT .. .
MY TEENAGE SON is a master of excuses. I talk to him
about a problem, and he’s always got a new reason
why it’s not his fault. ”
The Danger Point
It’s easy to be lulled into a series of never-ending excuses-par
ticularly if the other person doesn’t want to do what you’ve
asked and learns that as long as he or she can give you a plausi
ble reason, all bets are off.
“I go to work before my son leaves for school, and he’s con
stantly late. First he told me that he was late because his
alarm broke. The next day the old car we bought him had
a problem-or so he says. Then his friend forgot to pick
him up. Then he had a hl!ad cold and couldn’t hear his new
a I” 1’1ll . Thl!11 . . . ”
208 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
With “imaginative” people, take a preemptive strike against all new
excuses. Gain a commitment to solve the overall problem, not sim
ply the stated cause. For instance, the first time the person is late,
seek a commitment to fix the alarm-and anything else that might
stand in the way. Repairing the alarm only deals with one potential
cause. Ask the person to deal with the problem-being late.
“So you think that if you get a new alarm, you’ll be able to
make it to school on time? That’s fine with me. Do what
ever it takes to get there on time. Can I count on you being
there tomorrow at eight o’clock sharp?”
Then remember, as the excuses accumulate, don’t talk about the
most recent excuse; talk about the pattern.