Over 2 million people have read the book Crucial Conversations™. I recently read the book and participated in the Vital Smarts training program. Spending two days learning about and practicing crucial conversations is a humbling experience. I recalled so many crucial conversations in my life time and I must admit not all were successful.
I think the there were three things that will stick with me that I will be practicing. First, know when you are in a crucial conversation and “start with heart”. Know when you are in an important conversation that needs to happen. The two spectrums of most crucial conversations is silence and fighting.(Vital Smarts calls it violence which includes anger, name calling, and storming out). The training helps you to recognize those patterns in yourself and how to reengage in productive conversations.
Second, know the difference between fact and story. So often we create a story around the facts in a crucial conversation. In my class of 15 people, we analyzed 20-30 data points that we all thought they were fact in a crucial conversation. In reality, it was all embedded in our stories. Learning to tease the story away from the facts was a great lesson.
Lastly, know what kind of crucial conversation you are having: content, pattern or relationship. The book defines these very carefully and it was clear to me that we tend to identify most crucial conversations as content problems and patterns (ex…”you’ve repeated this error five times”) when the reality is it’s a relationship conversation. Practicing using the phrase “Help me to understand…..” was a powerful lesson.
I highly recommend the training and the book. I’d love to recommend this training to a few leaders in the world but that’s the first rule, start with self.
Last spring, my brother had this crucial conversation with a sea lion at Montana De Oro State Park. The sea lion was not too interested in going back into the water. Like many sea lion’s last year she was starving from lack of fish and had no energy. My brother was trying to tell her of her options…go back in the water and try to eat, or things may just get worse. I guess that’s the same for crucial conversations. We need to keep trying to get back into the “pool of shared meaning.” It’s where the heart of the conversation can begin.
Have you read Crucial Conversations? Let me know what you think.