Week 18: Crucial Conversations.
We have them every day, obviously (or hopefully); most are mundane, routine, the usual.
On the other hand, we all know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know the inevitable is coming - there is an imminent conversation that you must have with someone important in your life. Ick.
This week I picked up Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This book gives readers the tools to understand how to make those important conversations work for both you and those you are in conversation with. The authors aspire to empower you to keep cool when you need to bring touchy subjects to the forefront, and discuss those important topics that are extremely close to your heart or giving you that tight feeling in your gut.
I believe that conversations are like an art-form in how they must be carefully and intentionally created and presented. You’re going to make a mess sometimes, sure. But when it matters most, it’s so important to put as much care and thoughtful preparation into an crucial conversation as you would for a big presentation at work or an essay for school, or even that play you were in when you were younger.
The impacts are phenomenal when you mess up on a conversation completely - we’ve all been there - leaving us with a shaky voice, raised tone, even tears, and above all, a failed conversation. Why not take it upon yourself to improve this skill set for your life? This goes way beyond professional competencies, but certainly will help in your career as well.
I’ll give you a short synopsis to whet your appetite.
Think of it this way: if you don’t know what your goal is for the high-stakes conversation, you might as well not have it. You’ll take yourself and your friend/boss/family member on a merry-go-round of words and emotion that leads no where.
Once you know why you’re having the conversation, remember to mind your dialogue manners. It’s a two way street here, and you only know 1/2 the story. Check out the image below: that sweet spot where you share and they share is where the magic will happen.
I spend a ton of my time on personal development and am fortunate enough to not be starting from scratch with this topic, but I did have a crucial conversation this week myself. Not a life or death sort of conversation, but one that I thought about for two days before having. Knowing what I was reading, I tried out the ideas for myself: take a moment to think about what the goal is, why you’re having the conversation and what needs to come out of it. No need to over-complicate why we’re opening up a dialogue. I did have an “aha” moment when I noticed myself speaking without stopping to think about how what I was saying would actually positively impact the goal of the conversation - so I stopped. I took one second to reflect, caught my breath, and re-set my mind to the goal of the conversation (which should never be to win). Things went well from there and I have to thank Crucial Conversations for prompting me to catch myself in that one-second re-set, because I know this will only improve my conversation skills and help me immensely in the future.
What are your tricks for staying cool in a high-stakes conversation?