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Crucial Conversations


What is it:

A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where:

(1) The stakes are high

(2) Opinions differ

(3) Emotions run strong

(4) The outcome significantly impacts their lives and there is significant risk of negative consequences.

There are many different forms of crucial conversations, for example, you may need to deal with lazy or disrespectful colleagues or you may need to speak up when you think there is a flaw in a project proposal.

How To Approach A Crucial Conversation:

  1. Start with Yourself

Stick to your goals during the discussion so you don’t get overly emotional.

  • Ask yourself what is the purpose of having the conversation?

  • What information do you want to get across clearly?

2. Listen to the other person’s opinions to help them feel safe in the conversation.

There are four steps you can take to really listen to someone, summarized in the acronym AMPP: Ask, mirror, paraphrase, and prime.

  1. Ask (to get the ball rolling) Start by saying things like “I would like to hear your opinion about…”

  2. Mirror (to confirm feelings) This is saying things like “You look unsure…” Explain to them what you sense from the situation, in a calm and understanding tone.

  3. Paraphrase (to acknowledge their story) This will be “So if I understand you correctly…” Use this to understand how they feel.

  4. Prime (if you are getting nowhere) If someone clams up, we might need to encourage them to speak by suggesting what we think they might be feeling. “I guess you must think I’m being unfair…”

3. Use the STATE acronym to resolve a conflict

  1. Share the facts. When you begin the conversation, make sure you give the facts, and not your story.

  2. Tell your story. Next, you can tell your story and share the assumptions you made.

  3. Ask for the other’s paths. Let them tell their story.

  4. Talk tentatively. Remind yourself that your assumptions are not facts.

  5. Encourage testing. Encourage the other person to tell their viewpoint, even if it is opposite from yours.

After you calm the conflict, work toward a solution. This can happen in a variety of ways, like setting boundaries, having a vote, letting one person make a decision, brainstorming a solution together, or ending the relationship entirely if best for both parties.

Tools & Resources:

In Short:

If you want to be effective in the crucial conversations of life, you need to work to a real solution, whatever it may be.

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