Home > Poslovno svetovanje > Management > Joseph Greeny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory: Crucial Conversations

Joseph Greeny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory: Crucial Conversations

What’s a Crucial Conversation

What makes one of your conversations crucial. First, opinions vary. Second, stakes are high. Third, emotions run strong. Crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people in which they hold: opposing opinions about a high-stakes issue and where emotions are running strong.

You can measure the health of relationship, teams, and organizations by measuring the lag time between when problems are identified and when they are resolved. The only reliable path to resolving problems is to find the shortest path to effective conversation.

When conversations turn from routine to crucial, our instincts conspire against us. Strong emotions don’t exactly prepare us to converse effectively.

People who routinely hold Crucial Conversations and hold them well are able to express controversial and even risky opinions in a way that gets heard.

In the worst companies, poor performers are first ignored and then transferred. In good companies, bosses eventually deal with problems. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable – regardless of level or position. The path to high productivity passes not through a static system, but through face-to-face conversations.

Mastering Crucial Conversations, The Power of Dialogue

We wanted to find those who were not just influential, but more influential than the rest.

The mistake most of us make in our Crucial Conversations is we believe that we have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend.

When it comes to Crucial Conversations skilled people find a way to get all relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open. At the core of successful conversation lies the free flow of information. That’s called dialogue.

When two or more of us enter Crucial Conversations, by definition we don’t share the same pool. Our opinions differ. People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add meaning to the shared pool. The Pool of Shared Meaning is a measure of a group’s IQ. The larger the shared pool the smarter the decisions. When people purposely withhold meaning from one another, individually smart people can do collectively stupid things.

When people aren’t involved, when they sit back during touchy conversations, they’re rarely committed to the final decision.

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, we’re often at our worst. In order to move to our best, we have to find a way to explain what’s in each of our personal pools of meaning and to get others to share their pools.

The preparations principles – the things we need to do before we begin to ensure we are primed for an effective conversation:

  • Focus on the right problem.
  • Get your motives right.
  • Manage your emotions.

How to run a conversation:

  • Recognize early signs of problem.
  • Create the key condition that allows you to talk with almost anyone about almost anything safely.
  • Sharing your views in a way that is both truthful and least likely to provoke defensiveness.
  • Helping others to productively express their views.
  • Minimizing the misery, we feel when receiving tough feedback.

What to do before you open your mouth

Choose your topic

Seventy percent of the success of a Crucial Conversation happens in your head, not through your mouth.

Crucial Conversations are most successful when they’re focused on one issue. Because human interactions are inherently complex. When faced with complex problems, we rarely stop and ponder which topic we should address. We have two mistaken directions: we choose easy over hard and recent over right.

Three signals that you’ve talking about the wrong thing:

  • Your emotions escalate.
  • You walk away skeptical.
  • You’re in a déjà vu dialogue.

One of the best ways to ensure your talk about the right topic is to get good at noticing when you’re on the wrong one.

The three elements of choosing the right topic. The person knows how to: unbundle, choose and simplify the issues involved.

There are three levels of conversations and the fourth is related to the process of the conversation. We can call three levels CPR:

  • Content. If either the action itself or its immediate consequences are the issue, you’ve got a content problem.
  • Pattern. The issue is no longer just one assignment: it’s the pattern that’s emerging.
  • Relationship. As problems continue, they can begin to impact the relationship. Relationship issues get to deeper concerns about trust, competence, or respect.

CPR is a powerful entry point as we begin to unravel complex interactions and consider the issues that are keeping us stuck. Occasionally you’ll need to extend your conversation to cover the issue of the process of how we are discussing issues.

Taking time to address the process of how we are communicating is especially important when there are differences in our communication styles. Process issues often come into play across cultures as well. Process conversations are also especially important in relationships that are largely or exclusively virtual.

The next topic in finding the right topic to discuss is to choose. Narrow the problem down to a succinct statement. If you worry about the how while trying to be honest about the what, you’ll be tempted to water down your message.

Most of the crucial problems we face require us to address issues at the pattern, process, or relationship level. Very rarely is a content issue keeping us stuck.

Never allow the conversation to shift or the topic to change without acknowledging you’ve done it. If you decide to shift topics, bookmark the original one to make it easy to return to after the new topic is handled.

Start with heart

The first problem we face in our Crucial Conversations is not that our behavior degenerates. It is that our motives do, a shift that we are often completely unaware of. We cling to our stated motive and ignore what our behavior reveals about our true motives.

The first step in achieving the results we really want is to stop believing that others are the source of all that ails us. The principle you should use is: work on me first, us second.

Skilled people start with Heart. That is, they begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused on those motives no matter what happens. They maintain this focus in two ways. First, they’re steely-eyed smart when it comes to knowing what they want. Second, the dialogue-smart believe that dialogue, no matter the circumstances, is always an option.

When adrenaline does our thinking for us, our motives flow with the chemical tide. In a sense, you don’t choose the motive; it chooses you. But if you can see it, you can change it.

Ask yourself these three questions to control your fear: what do I really want for myself, what do I really want for others, and what do I really want for the relationship? Then ask another question: what should I do right now to move toward what I really want?

Master my stories

Emotions don’t just happen. Emotions don’t settle upon you like a fog. They are not foisted upon you by others. You make you mad. Once you’ve created your upset emotions, you have only two options: You can act on them or be acted on by them.

It’s not easy to rethink yourself from an emotional and dangerous state into one that puts your back in control. To help rethink our emotions, we need to know where our feelings come from in the first place.

Path to action is:

  • See & hear.
  • Tell a story.
  • Feel.
  • Act.

There is an intermediate step between what others do and how we feel. Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotions about it, we tell ourselves a story. Since we and only we are telling the story, we can take back control of our own emotions by telling a different story. Stories provide our rationale for what’s going on.

Our stories contain not just conclusions but also judgements and attributions.

Storytelling typically happens blindingly fast.

Any set of facts can be used to tell an infinite number of stories. If we take control of our stories, they won’t control us.

To slow down the lightning-quick storytelling process and the subsequent flow of adrenalin, retrace your Path to Action – one element at a time.

  • Notice your behavior (act).
  • Put your feelings into words (feel).
  • Analyze your stories (tell story).
  • Get back to the facts (see/hear).

Two situations that can be cues to you that it is time to take a pause and retrace your Path to Action. Bad results and tough emotions.

When you take time to precisely articulate what you’ve feeling, you begin to put a little bit of daylight between you and the emotions.

We willingly question whether our emotions (very real) and the story behind them (only one of many possible explanations) are accurate.

To avoid confusing story with fact, watch for hot terms. Removing hot words and getting down to basic facts is harder than it sounds.

When we fell a need to justify our ineffective behavior or disconnect ourselves from our bad results, we tend to tell our stories in three very predictable ways.

  • Victim stories. It not my fault.
  • Villain stories. It all your fault.
  • Helpless stories. There’s nothing else I can do.

Clever stories we should tell, should be based on facts and real, and they should create an action. So, the story should be clever and useful. Turn victims into actors. Turn villains into humans. Turn helpless into the able.

How to open your mouth

Learn to look

During Crucial Conversations, the key to maintaining dialogue is to learn to dual-process. Think about what is being said and how it is being said.

Think about feeling of being safe in Crucial Conversation. When it’s safe, you can say anything. Safety isn’t synonymous with comfort. Also think about your own communication

style under pressure.

As people begin to feel unsafe, they start down one of two unhealthy paths. They move either to silence or to verbal violence.

The three most common forms of silence are masking, avoiding and withdrawing.

  • Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true options.
  • Avoiding involves steering completely away from sensitive subjects.
  • Withdrawing means pulling out of a conversation altogether.

The three most common forms of violence are controlling, labeling, and attacking.

  • Controlling consists of coercing others to your way of thinking.
  • Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dismiss them under a general stereotype or category.
  • Attacking speaks for itself.

We all have trouble monitoring our own behavior at times.

Make it safe

Safety in conversation is about intent, not content.

In order for people to feel safe with you, they need to know two things about your intent. They need to know:

  • You care about their concerns (Mutual Purpose).
  • You care about them (Mutual Respect).

There’s no reason to enter a Crucial Conversation if you don’t have Mutual Purpose, it’s equally true that you can’t stay in the conversation if you don’t maintain Mutual Respect. Respect is like air. As long as it’s present, nobody thinks about it. But if you take it away, it’s all that people can think about.

Here are four skills that the best at dialogue routinely use to build safety up front in a conversation and rebuild safety when it’s been lost:

  • Share your good intent.
  • Apologize when appropriate.
  • Contrast to fix misunderstanding.
  • Create a Mutual Purpose.

If people aren’t sure of your intent, they will assume the worst.

Contrasting is a don’t/do statement that fixes misunderstanding. In the don’t part of the statement, you explain what you don’t intend for the conversation. In the do part of the statement, you clarify what your intention for the conversation really is. Of the two parts of Contrasting, the don’t is the more important. Use contrasting to provide context and proportion. Use contrasting for prevention.

The best at dialogue use four skills to create a Mutual Purpose. The four skills used in creating Mutual Purpose form the acronym CRIB. They are:

  • Commit to Seek Mutual Purpose.
  • Recognize the Purpose Behind the Strategy.
  • Invent a Mutual Purpose.
  • Brainstorm New Strategies.

In commit to seek mutual purpose, we need to agree to agree. We start with heart by committing to stay in the conversation until we invent a solution that serves a purpose, we both share. After we’ve experienced a change of heart, we need to change our strategy as well. We confuse wants or purpose with strategies. Before you can agree on a Mutual Purpose, you must first know what people’s real purpose are. In case when you cannot discover a Mutual Purpose, means you’ll have to actively invent one. By focusing on higher and longer-term goals, you often find ways to transcend short-term compromises, build Mutual Purpose, and return to dialogue.

State my path

To help us improve our advocacy skills, we’ll examine five skills that solve our two main problems: defensiveness and resistance.

Before we can speak honestly, we must find a way to maintain safety. We should blend three elements: confidence, humility and skill.

Once you’ve worked on yourself to create the right conditions for dialogue, you can then draw upon five distinct skills that can help you talk about even the most sensitive topics. These five tools create STATE:

  • Share your facts.
  • Tell your story.
  • Ask for others’ path.
  • Talk tentatively.
  • Encourage testing.

The first three skills describe what to do. The last two tell how to do it.

Facts provide a safe beginning. By their very nature, facts are less controversial. Facts lay the groundwork for the conclusions that will come next.

If you want to share your story, don’t start with it. Your story could unnecessarily surprise or insult others. First the facts and then the story. You need to earn the right to share your story by starting with your facts.

We express our confidence by sharing our facts and stories clearly. We demonstrate our humility by then asking others to share their views and meaning it.

Talk tentatively is not about softening the message; it’s about strengthening it.

When you ask others to share their paths, how you phrase your invitation makes a big difference.

Explore other’s path

When others do damage to the pool of meaning by clamming up (refusing to speak their minds) or blowing up (communicating in a way that is abusive and insulting), is there something you can do to get them back to dialogue?

Be sincere, be curious, stay curious, and be patient.

Encourage others to retrace their path. When we help others retrace their path to its origins, we also return to the place where the feelings can be resolved.

To encourage people to move from acting on their feelings to talking about their conclusions and observations, we must listen in a way that makes it safe for them to share their intimate thoughts.

Four power listening tools are AMPP: ask, mirror, paraphrase and prime.

Mirroring is most useful when another person’s tone of voice and gestures are inconsistent with his or her words.

Prime when you believe that the other person still has something to share and might do so with a little more effort on your part.

Understanding doesn’t equate with agreement. Sensitivity doesn’t equate to acquiescence. By taking steps to understand another person’s Path to Action, we aren’t promising that we’ll accept their point of view. We are promising to listen.

If you agree with what has been said but the information is incomplete, build. Point out areas of agreement, and then add elements that were left out of the discussion. If you disagree, compare your path with the other person’s. rather than suggesting that the other person is wrong, suggest that you differ. Think of ABC. Agree when you agree. Build when others leave out key pieces. Compare when you differ.

Retake your pen

Critical feedback can be hard to hear. There’s a difference between getting feedback and being feedsmacked.

How you feel about feedback is about who holds the pen, not what or how things are said.

Feedback only hurts when we believe it threatens one or both of our most fundamental psychological needs: safety and worth.

Four tools help them progress from feeling defined by feedback to being beneficiaries of it (CURE):

  • Collect yourself.
  • Understand.
  • Recover.
  • Engage.

How to finish

Move to action

We often fail to convert the ideas into action for two reasons:

  • We have unclear expectations about how decisions will be made.
  • We do a poor job of acting on the decisions we made.

Don’t allow people to assume that dialogue is decision-making. Dialogue is a process for getting all relevant meaning into a shared pool.

When you’re in a position of authority, you decide which method of decision-making you’ll use. When there is no clear line of authority, deciding how to decide can be quite difficult.

There are four common ways of making decisions: command, consult, vote, and consensus. Most decisions in life are command decisions.

When choosing among the four methods of decision-making, consider the following questions:

  • Who cares?
  • Who knows?
  • Who must agree?
  • How many people is it worth involving?

While conversation doesn’t necessarily need to end with a decision, it should always end with a commitment. It may be a commitment to change or take action. Or it may be a commitment, simply but sincere, to reflect on the new meaning that has been shared. Think about the following four elements:

  • Who?
  • Does What?
  • By When?
  • How will you Follow up?

Everybody’s business is nobody’s business. “We” when it comes to assignments actually means “not me”.

Goals without deadlines aren’t goals; they are merely directions. Always agree on how often and by what method you’ll follow up on the assignment.

Yeah, but

Deal with trust around the issue, not around the person.

Don’t deal with a specific instance, deal with the overall pattern. If you want someone to show more initiative, tell him or her.

Putting it all together

Two key principles: learn to look and make it safe.

Other principles: choose your topic, start with heart, master your stories, learn to look, make it safe, state your path, explore others’ path, retake your path, move to action.

The problem isn’t that we have problems. The problem is the lag time between when we know we have them and when we find a way to effectively confront, discuss, and resolve them. If you reduce this lag time, everything gets better.

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