19 Nov PRAISE FOR CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
Discuss application of concepts in Chapter 7 in the attached book. Use appropriate grammar, sentence structure and word choice and correctly cite sources.
PRAISE FOR CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
"Relationships are the priority of life, and conversations are the
crucial element in profound caring of relationships. This book
helps us to think about what we really want to say. If you want
to succeed in both talking and listening, read this book."
-Dr. Lloyd J. Ogilvie, chaplain, United States Senate
"Important, lucid, and practical, Crucial Conversations is a
book that will make a difference in your life. Learn how to flour
ish in every difficult situation."
-Robert E. Quinn, ME Tracy Collegiate Professor of
OBHRM, University of Michigan Business School
"I was personally and professionally inspired by this book-and
I'm not easily impressed. In the fast-paced world of IT, the success
of our systems, and our business, depends on crucial conversations
we have every day. Unfortunately, because our environment is so
technical, far too often we forget about the 'human systems' that
make or break us. These skills are the missing foundation piece."
-Maureen Burke, manager of training,
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.
"The book is compelling. Yes, I found myself in too many of their
examples of what not to do when caught in these worst-of-all
worlds situations! GET THIS BOOK, WHIP OUT A PEN AND
GET READY TO SCRIBBLE MARGIN NOTES FURIOUSLY,
AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE THE INVALUABLE
TOOLS THESE AUTHORS PRESENT. I know I did-and it
helped me salvage several difficult situations and repair my
damaged self-esteem in others. I will need another copy pretty
soon. as I'm wearing out the pages in this one!"
-James Belasco. best-selling author of Flight of the Buffalo,
l!l1trl!prl!l1eur. professor. und l!xl!cutive director of the Financial
Tilllrs Knowkdgc Diuloguc
"Crucial Conversations is the most useful self-help book I have
ever read. I'm awed by how insightful, readable, well organized,
and focused it is. I keep thinking: 'If only I had been exposed to
these dialogue skills 30 years ago … '"
-John Hatch, founder, FINCA International
"One of the greatest tragedies is seeing someone with incredible
talent get derailed because he or she lacks some basic skills.
Crucial Conversations addresses the number one reason execu
tives derail, and it provides extremely helpful tools to operate in
a fast-paced, results-oriented environment."
-Karie A. Willyerd, chief talent officer, Solectron
"The book prescribes, with structure and wit, a way to improve on
the most fundamental element of organizational learning and
growth-honest, unencumbered dialogue between individuals.
There are one or two of the many leadership/management
'thought' books on my shelf that are frayed and dog-eared from
use. Crucial Conversations will no doubt end up in the same con
-John Gill, VP of Human Resources, Rolls Royce USA
Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny,
Ron McMillan, and AI Switzler
New York ChIcago San FrancIsco LIsbon
London Madrzd MexIco CIty MIlan New DelhI
San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Crucial Conversations : tools for talking when stakes are high / Kerry Patterson … [et al.].
p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-07-140194-6 1. International communication. 2. Interpersonal relations.
Patterson, Kerry, 1946-
A Division of The McGraw·Hill Companies �
Copyright © 2002 by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
29 30 31 32 33 34 35 DOC/DOC 0 9 8 7
This book was set in R Life Roman by Patricia Caruso of McGraw-Hill Professional's DTP composition unit in Hightstown, N.J.
Printed and bound by R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company.
McGraw-Hill books are available at special quantity discounts to use as premiums and sales promotions, or for use in corporate training programs. For more information, please write to the Director of Special Sales, Professional Publishing, McGraw-Hill, Two Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121-2298. Or contact your local bookstore.
We dedicate this book to
Louise, Celia, Bonnie, and Linda-
whose support is abundant,
whose love is nourishin�
and whose patience is just shy of infinite.
And to our children
Christine, Rebecca, Taylofi Scott,
Aislinn, Carat Seth, Samue� Hyrum,
Ambefi Megan, Chase, Hayley, Bryn,
Ambefi Laura, Becca, Rachael, Benjamin,
Meridith, Lindsey, Kelley, Todd
who have been a wonderful source of learning.
CH. 1: What's a Crucial Conversation?
And Who Cares? 1
CH. 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations
The Power of Dialogue 17
CH. 3: Start with Heart
How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want 27
CH. 4: Learn to Look
How to Notice When Safety Is at Risk 45
CH. 5: Make It Safe
How to Make It Safe to Talk about Almost Anything 65
CH. 6: Master My Stories
How to Stay in Dialogue When You 're Angry,
Scared, or Hurt 93
CH. 7: STATE My Path
How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively 119
CH. 8: Explore Others' Paths
How to Listen When Others Blow Up or Clam Up 141
CH. 9: Move to Action
How to Turn Crucial Conversations
into Action and Results 161
CH. 10: Putting It All Together
Tools for Preparing and Learning 179
CH. 11: Yeah, But
Advice for Tough Cases 193
CH. 12: Change Your Life
How to Turn Ideas into Habits 215
This is a breakthrough book. That is exactly how I saw it when
I first read the manuscript. I so resonated with the importance, power, and timeliness of its message that I even suggested to the
authors that they title it "Breakthrough Conversations." But as I read deeper, listened to the tapes, and experienced the insight borne of years of experience with this material, I came to under
stand why it is titled Crucial Conversations.
From my own work with organizations, including families,
and from my own experience, I have come to see that there are
a few defining moments in our lives and careers that make all the difference. Many of these defining moments come from
"crucial" or "breakthrough" conversations with important peo
ple in emotionally charged situations where the decisions made take us down one of several roads, each of which leads to an
entirely different destination.
I can see the wisdom in the assertion of the great historian Arnold Toynbee, who said that you can pretty well summarize all of history-not only of society, but of institutions and of people in four words: Nothing fails like success. In other words, when a challenge in life is met by a response that is equal to it, you have success. But when the challenge moves to a higher level,
the old, once successful response no longer works-it fails; thus, nothing fails like success.
The challenge has noticeably changed for our lives, our fami lies, and our organizations. Just as the world is changing at
frightening speed and has become increasingly and profoundly interdependent with marvelous and dangerous technologies, so, too, have the stresses and pressures we all experience exponen
tially increased. This charged atmosphere makes it all the more imperative that we nourish our relationships and develop tools, skills, and enhanced capacity to find new and better solutions to
our problems. These newer, better solutions will not represent "my way" or
"your way"-they will represent "our way." In short, the solu tions must be synergistic, meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Such synergy may manifest itself in a bet ter decision, a better relationship, a better decision-making process, increased commitment to implement decisions made,
or a combination of two or more of these. What you learn is that "crucial conversations" transform peo
ple and relationships. They are anything but transacted; they create an entirely new level of bonding. They produce what Buddhism calls "the middle way" -not a compromise between two opposites on a straight-line continuum, but a higher middle
way, like the apex of a triangle. Because two or more people
have created something new from genuine dialogue, bonding takes place-just like the bonding that takes place in family or
marriage when a new child is created. When you produce some thing with another person that is truly creative, it's one of the most powerful forms of bonding there is. In fact the bonding is so strong that you simply would not be disloyal in his or her
absence, even if there were social pressure to join others in bad mouthing.
The sequential development of the subject matter in this book is brilliant. It moves you from understanding the supernal power
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
-c. NORTHCOTE PARKINSON
What's a Crucial
Conversation? And Who Cares?
When people first hear the term "crucial conversation," many
conjure up images of presidents, emperors, and prime ministers seated around a massive table while they debate the future of the
world. Although it's true that such discussions have a wide sweeping and lasting impact, they're not the kind we have in
mind. The crucial conversations we're referring to in the title of this book are interactions that happen to everyone. They're the day-to-day conversations that affect your life.
Now, what makes one of your conversations crucial as opposed to plain vanilla? First, opinions vary. For example, you're talking with your boss about a possible promotion. She thinks you're not ready; you think you are. Second, stakes are high. You're in
a meeting with four coworkers and you're trying to pick a new marketing strategy. You've got to do something different or your company isn't going to hit its annual goals. Third, emotions run
strong. You're in the middle of a casual discussion with your spouse and he or she brings up an "ugly incident" that took place at yesterday's neighborhood block party. Apparently not only did you flirt with someone at the party, but according to your spouse, "You were practically making out." You don't remember flirting.
You simply remember being polite and friendly. Your spouse walks off in a huff.
And speaking of the block party, at one point you're making small talk with your somewhat crotchety and always colorful
neighbor about his shrinking kidneys when he says, "Speaking of the new fence you're building . . . " From that moment on you
end up in a heated debate over placing the new fence-three inches one way or the other. Three inches ! He finishes by threat ening you with a lawsuit, and you punctuate your points by men
tioning that he's not completely aware of the difference between his hind part and his elbow. Emotions run really strong.
What makes each of these conversations crucial-and not sim
ply challenging, frustrating, frightening, or annoying-is that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life. In each case, some element of your daily routine could be forever altered
for better or worse. Clearly a promotion could make a big differ ence. Your company's success affects you and everyone you work with. Your relationship with your spouse influences every aspect of
your life. Even something as trivial as a debate over a property line affects how you get along with your neighbor. If you handle even a seemingly insignificant conversation poorly, you establish a pattern of behavior that shows up in all of your crucial conversations.
By definition, crucial conversations are about tough issues.
Unfortunately, it's human nature to back away from discussions we fear will hurt us or make things worse. We're masters at avoid ing these tough conversations. Coworkers send email to caI.:h
other when they should walk down the hall and talk turkey. Bosses leave voice mail in lieu of meeting with their direct reports. Family members change the subject when an issue gets too risky. We (the authors) have a friend who learned through a voice-mail message that his wife was divorcing him. We use all kinds of tactics to dodge touchy issues.
But it doesn't have to be this way. If you know how to handle (even master) crucial conversations, you can step up to and effec
tively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.
Crucial Conversation (kroo shel kan'viir sa'shen) n A discussion between two or more people where ( 1 ) stakes are
high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.
HOW DO WE TYPICALLY HANDLE CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS?
Just because we're in the middle of a crucial conversation (or
maybe thinking about stepping up to one) doesn't mean that we're in trouble or that we won't fare well. In truth, when we face crucial conversations, we can do one of three things:
• We can avoid them.
• We can face them and handle them poorly.
• We can face them and handle them well.
That seems simple enough. Walk away from crucial conversa tions and suffer the consequences. Handle them poorly and suf fer the consequences. Or handle them well.
"I don't know," you think to yourself. "Given the three choic es, I'll go with handling them well."
We're on Our Worst Behavior
But do we handle them wel l? When talking turns tough, do we pause, takc a deep brcuth, unnl.>uncc to our innerselves, "Uh-oh,
4 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
this discussion is crucial. I'd better pay close attention" and then trot out our best behavior? Or when we're anticipating a poten
tially dangerous discussion, do we step up to it rather than scam per away? Sometimes. Sometimes we boldly step up to hot topics, monitor our behavior, and offer up our best work. We mind our Ps and Os. Sometimes we're just flat-out good.
And then we have the rest of our lives. These are the moments when, for whatever reason, we either anticipate a crucial conver sation or are in the middle of one and we're at our absolute worst-we yell; we withdraw; we say things we later regret. When conversations matter the most-that is, when conversations move from casual to crucial-we're generally on our worst behavior.
Why is that?
We're designed wrong. When conversations tum from routine to crucial, we're often in trouble. That's because emotions don't
exactly prepare us to converse effectively. Countless generations of genetic shaping drive humans to handle crucial conversations with flying fists and fleet feet, not intelligent persuasion and gen tle attentiveness.
For instance, consider a typical crucial conversation. Someone says something you disagree with about a topic that matters a great deal to you and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The hairs you can handle. Unfortunately, your body does more. Two tiny organs seated neatly atop your kidneys pump adrenaline
into your bloodstream. You don't choose to do this. Your adrenal glands do it, and then you have to live with it.
And that's not all. Your brain then diverts blood from activi ties it deems nonessential to high-priority tasks such as hitting
and running. Unfortunately, as the large muscles of the arms and legs get more blood, the higher-level reasoning sections of your brain get less. As a result, you end up facing challenging
conversations with the same equipment available to a rhesus monkey.
WHAT'S A CRUCIAL CONVERSATION? 5
We're under pressure. Let's add another factor. Crucial con versations are frequently spontaneous. More often than not, they come out of nowhere. And since you're caught by surprise, you're forced to conduct an extraordinarily complex human interaction in real time-no books, no coaches, and certainly no
short breaks while a team of therapists runs to your aid and pumps you full of nifty ideas.
What do you have to work with? The issue at hand, the other
person, and a brain that's preparing to fight or take flight. It's lit tle wonder that we often say and do things that make perfect sense in the moment, but later on seem, well, stupid.
"What was I thinking?" you wonder.
The truth is, you were real-time multitasking with a brain that was working another job. You're lucky you didn't suffer a stroke.
We're stumped. Now let's throw in one more complication. You don't know where to start. You're making this up as you go along because you haven't often seen real-life models of effec tive communication skills . Let's say that you actually planned
for a tough conversation-maybe you've even mentally rehearsed. You feel prepared, and you're as cool as a cucumber. Will you succeed? Not necessarily. You can still screw up, because practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
This means that first you have to know what to practice. Sometimes you don't. After all, you may have never actually seen how a certain problem is best handled. You may have seen what not to do-as modeled by a host of friends, colleagues, and, yes, even your parents. In fact, you may have sworn time and again not to act the same way.
Left with no healthy models, you're now more or less stumped. So what do you do? You do what most people do. You wing it. You piece together the words, create a certain mood, and otherwise make up what you think will work-all the while
6 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
multiprocessing with a half-starved brain. It's little wonder that
when it matters the most, we're often at our worst behavior. We act in self-defeating ways. In our doped-up, dumbed-down
state, the strategies we choose for dealing with our crucial con
versations are perfectly designed to keep us from what we actu
ally want. We're our own worst enemies-and we don't even realize it. Here's how this works.
Let's say that your significant other has been paying less and less attention to you. You realize he or she has a busy job, but you still would like more time together. You drop a few hints about the issue, but your loved one doesn't handle it well. You
decide not to put on added pressure, so you clam up. Of course, since you're not all that happy with the arrangement, your dis pleasure now comes out through an occasional sarcastic remark.
"Another late night, huh? Do you really need all of the
money in the world?"
Unfortunately (and here's where the problem becomes self defeating) , the more you snip and snap, the less your loved one
wants to be around you. So your significant other spends even less time with you, you become even more upset, and the spi
ral continues. Your behavior is now actually creating the very thing you didn't want in the first place. You're caught in an unhealthy, self-defeating loop.
Or consider what's happening with your roommate Terry who wears your and your other two roommates' clothes (without
asking)-and he's proud of it. In fact, one day while walking out the door, he glibly announced that he was wearing something
from each of your closets. You could see Taylor's pants, Scott's
shirt, and, yes, even Chris's new matching shoes-and-socks ensemble. What of yours could he possibly be wearing? Eww!
Your response, quite naturally, has been to bad-mouth Terry behind his back. That is until one day when he overheard you
WHATS A CRUCIAL CONVERSATION? 7
belittling him to a frie