• You believe you should help someone, but don’t.
• You believe you should apologize, but don’t.
• You believe you should stay late to finish up on a commitment,
but go home instead.
• You say yes when you know you should say no, then hope no
one follows up to see if you keep your commitment.
• You believe you should talk to someone about concerns you
have with him or her, but don’t.
• You do less than your share and think you should acknowl
edge it, but say nothing knowing no one else will bring it up
• You believe you should listen respectfully to feedback, but
become defensive instead.
• You see problems with a plan someone presents and think you
should speak up, but don’t.
• You fai l to complete an assignment on time and believe you
should let others know, but don’t.
1 1 2 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
• You know you have information a coworker could use, but
keep it to yourself.
Even small sellouts like these get us started telling clever stories.
When we don’t admit to our own mistakes, we obsess about others’
faults, our innocence, and our powerlessness to do anything other
than what we’re already doing. We tell a clever story when we want
self-justification more than results. Of course, self-justification is
not what we really want, but we certainly act as if it is.
With that sad fact in mind, let’s focus on what we really want.
Let’s look at the final Master My Stories skill.
Tell the Rest of the Story
Once we’ve learned to recognize the clever stories we tell our
selves, we can move to the final Master My Stories skill. The dia
logue-smart recognize that they’re telling clever stories, stop,
and then do what it takes to tell a useful story. A useful story, by
definition, creates emotions that lead to healthy action-such as
And what transforms a clever story into a useful one? The rest
of the story. That’s because clever stories have one characteristic
in common: They’re incomplete. Clever stories omit crucial
information about us, about others, and about our options. Only
by including all of these essential details can clever stories be
transformed into useful ones.
What’s the best way to fill in the missing details? Quite sim
ply, it’s done by turning victims into actors, villains into humans,
and the helpless into the able. Here’s how.
Turn victims into actors . If you notice that you’re talking
about yourself as an innocent victim (and you weren’t held up at
gunpoint) , ask:
• Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
MASTER MY STORIES 1 1 3
This question jars you into facing up to the fact that maybe,
just maybe, you did something to help cause the problem. Instead
of being a victim, you were an actor. This doesn’t necessarily
mean you had malicious motives. Perhaps your contribution was
merely a thoughtless omission. Nonetheless, you contributed.
For example, a coworker constantly leaves the harder or nox
ious tasks for you to complete. You’ve frequently complained to
friends and loved ones about being exploited. The parts you
leave out of the story are that you smile broadly when your boss
compliments you for your willingness to take on challenging
jobs, and you’ve never said anything to your coworker. You’ve
hinted, but that’s about it.