So, recently I read this book called ‘Crucial Conversations’ written by; Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. I wanted to discuss parts of this book which I found incredibly beneficial and will allow you to have any conversation in your life, no matter how ‘crucial’ it is, and achieve the best results. Yes, this means you get to maintain a good relationship with this person as well as being honest and integral – which I believe we all think can be impossible sometimes! Especially when the topics you want to discuss are bound to open old wounds, or potentially cause an emotional shift in the person you want to confront.
You may be asking – how is this possible? Well, I kind of thought the same thing before I read this book, not only are these techniques favourable for your personal relationships but also for your business relationships too. If you’re a manager for instance and you need to get a big project completed, but your team can’t seem to cooperate – the skills from this book will be highly beneficial! Improving relationships and ultimately getting what you want from anything.
Below I will discuss some of the things that have really stuck with me from reading this book, which I wanted to share with you, as I believe you may find it beneficial too! Lets dive in.
So the first thing is clear we all do, even if we don’t realise it. When something happens to us, our emotions can become twisted, we get unhappy or irritated by someone and we react by reverting to silence or violence. Why do we do this? Because everything happens so fast in our tiny brains that we don’t even clock that just prior to our emotions taking a turn, we have ultimately told ourselves a story which justifies your reaction to the situation – leading you to feel the negative emotions and unleash these on the person who has caused you to feel this way.
In an example, lets say you’re with your boyfriend or partner. You’re cuddled up on the sofa, loved up watching a movie, when he randomly states that he can’t see you this weekend – he’s got a lot on and can’t fit you into his schedule. Immediately, you pull back and react poorly, you feel irritated and upset and turn to silence in order to make your partner feel guilty, which consequently leads to him becoming frustrated and going up to bed early. Now you’re lonely too.
What was it that lead you to become upset and turn to silent treatment? You told yourself a story, and you chose to believe it rather than discuss it to test it’s truth, which ultimately lead to the situation with your partner becoming worse than before. The story may have been something along these lines – ‘He clearly doesn’t love me enough to make time for me. He’s so selfish, only thinking of himself, I do so much for him and he can’t even spare an hour of his time. What’s the point in even having a relationship with him. Maybe I’m not interesting enough? That’s it, I’m boring too, oh god, maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to see me. May as well just push him away now, what difference will it make.’
You convinced yourself of your story before discussing how you felt with your boyfriend, so that you could get his perspective on it. Don’t jump to conclusions. The stories we tell ourselves are NEVER facts, challenge them and find the truths.
We must first revert to the facts, explain the facts we know and then tell our story. In doing so we are questioning the legitimacy of our story and fishing for more information. You’re ultimately opening up the conversation further in order to find a solution that suits both sides, rather than slamming the door shut (by reacting poorly) cutting off any chances of getting what you really want.
The facts in this example would be – your boyfriend is having a busy weekend, and can’t see you. That’s all you have to work with. Your boyfriend loves you dearly, this is perhaps a little out of character for him, ask yourself – ‘why would a rational person do this?’
Rather than leaping into your story, we can get more detail on the little facts we have. You could ask your boyfriend – “Okay, so you’re super busy and don’t feel you have time to see me for the entire weekend? What is it you’ll be doing? Is it something I can help with?” Rather than jumping into your story and drawing conclusions, you have opened the conversation. Your boyfriend might respond with- “To be honest, I’m just crazy busy at work, I’ve got this huge project due and it needs to be done by Monday and it’s really stressing me out.” Now you have more facts to work with you can draw more obvious conclusions and solutions. Perhaps in this situations you could suggest taking him to dinner on the Saturday evening, even if it’s for a couple of hours – in order to de-stress and then continue with the project the next morning?
That example was rather simple, but essentially, in all ‘crucial’ conversations we have a few things to determine and deal with in order to draw up conclusions:
1) We need to determine the FACTS in the situation and recognise and evaluate the STORY we may be telling ourselves.
2) Open up the conversation by questioning our story – perhaps using phrases like ‘how do you see it?’ Then this will allow the other person to justify the actions that are the FACTS and allow you to re-write the story.
3) Find a solution. This may be easier said than done, especially when both parties seem to have conflicting interests. However, it is possible. This is where in the book it becomes slightly more complex, as there are many ways you can come to find solutions using varying approaches. To simplify; often we must ask ourselves ‘what do I really want here?‘ and recognise if our actions coincide with what we want. In the example used above – your reaction to your boyfriend most likely didn’t coincide with what you really wanted right? Does silence create a solution to the fact that what you really want is to figure out a way to see him, even if it’s just for a couple of hours?
If you struggle to find a solution, try finding a mutual purpose – what do you both want from the conversation? What would benefit both parties? For example; you’re a senior member of a support team and one of your colleagues has poor performance, which reflects on the entire team. Your boss has commented on the poor performance of the team as a whole, which you know is largely due to this one persons behaviour. When opening this conversation with the problematic person you may realise you both have a mutual purpose of wanting what is best for the business as well as a strong desire to earn the fat bonus cheque at the end of the month. These may help you both come to an effective solution.
Throughout any conversation, it’s vital to remember to be respectful, and try to remain level headed. Which, I know is easier said than done, but in order to achieve the best results these are super important to remember. The second you feel yourself becoming irritated, resorting to silence or verbal violence, stop. Remind yourself what you want from this conversation, and return to it to find the golden solution.
Of course, the information above is incredibly watered down compared to the deep analysis that the authors dive into within the book. I tried to simplify their work as much as I could for the benefit of you guys and this post. If you want more information on how to cope well in Crucial Conversations you could always purchase the book yourself! I would encourage it if you’re like myself and enjoy self-development.
Have a beautiful day where-ever you are, we shall speak again soon.
All my love,