Crucial Conversations –

Crucial ConvoAs humans, we converse through the power of language every day. When we work as a team in a shared endeavor, like the workplace, we often engage in conversations, that often, but not always, involve the spoken word. It is not likely that anyone will exist in the modern workplace for long without at some point, having a difference of opinion with someone. The degree to which the issue at hand may affect you, depends on whether you differ from your boss, your peer, or your subordinate. Each presents certain paradigms and responsibilities on the parties. By any definition, what follows when the criteria are met is a “crucial conversation”.

crucial triangle

There are three components to a crucial conversation. Varying opinion, high stakes, and strong emotion make up the landscape for a crucial conversation. As humans, we can choose to run away, face it down but lose the moment in a sea of emotion, body language and self-defeating behavior, or capture the opportunity to resolve an issue that has long made you “stuck” and move forward.

There are many instances in which a routine conversation morphs either suddenly or predictably into a crucial conversation. If you are the boss trying to get to the bottom of a performance issue, you may have the ability to follow the thread. However, if you are the peer unexpectedly finding yourself in the position of trying to hold a teammate accountable for something, you may have to acknowledge that this might not be the time they are ready to discuss. One key to ensuring this process is safe is to be aware of the silence/violence direction, when communication has ceased. Withdrawing, avoiding, masking, attacking, labeling, or controlling are all examples of outcomes that suggest no one is going to the Pool Of Shared Meaning anytime soon.
Dr. Joseph Grenny, in his book “Crucial Conversations“, suggested three helpful tips for anyone who desires to have a crucial conversation and resolve it successfully. First, learn to look at yourself (Yes, again, as I have said in earlier posts, “It’s Always You”). Those who are most effective at crucial conversations are most conscious of their own behavior. When they notice their own behavior degenerating, they stop and consider what results they really care about. When the other person is reacting badly, they do something profoundly different from others. They make it safe. Next, his research noted that the antidote to defensiveness in crucial conversations is to make it safe. People can listen to tough feedback as long as they feel safe with the person giving it. First, you can create safety by helping others understand that you care about their interests as much as you care about your own. When they believe this is true, they open up to your views. You must help the other person know you respect them. Lastly, it should be a motivating conversation. Influential people rarely face instances where they can’t engage someone in a crucial conversation because they know that the key to influence is empathy. Before they start a crucial conversation they give careful thought to how the problems they want to raise either are affecting, or will affect the other person. If you respectfully help the other person see how their own interests are served by addressing the problem, they will be naturally motivated to engage in solutions.