Nobody really wants to have a crucial conversation that produces bad results.  Preparing for a crucial conversation is the best way to establish a foundation for a favorable outcome.  Not planning for these conversations can result in your losing your temper.  You cannot also end up saying the wrong things.  Sometimes we engage in conversations that leave us feeling frustrated.  There are a number of valuable lessons you can learn from the book, Crucial Conversations.  I have found this book to be a great resource.  I use the principles I have learned  in training and coaching my clients.

In the book, Crucial Conversations, there is a story about an executive, Greta.  Greta, the CEO, was leading a two-hour meeting with her top employers.  During the meeting a member of the team confronted her regarding her congruence.  Greta wanted to reduce costs however her actions did not show this.  When confronted by the employee Greta had to choose her response.  Would it be a professional response or  result in conflict.  Of course, conflict can be both uncomfortable and disarming.  However conflict when handled properly does not have to end badly.


The authors of the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, define a crucial conversation as a discussion between two or more people where:

  1. Stakes are high
  2. Opinions vary
  3. And emotions run strong.

There are techniques that you can master as a leader to handle any situations.  How you handle conflict in any situation whether it is personal or professional will determine your success.  It also directly impacts the quality of your relationships.

So, what steps will help you in preparing for a crucial conversation?  Asking the question “what do I really want here” is key when engaging in meaningful dialogue.  This questions will help you to evaluate your motives.  In addition prepping in advance allows you to look at different scenarios.

Stopping to ask yourself “what do I really want here” will also help you focus on your priorities.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are my goals for this meeting?
  • What do I hope to gain by having this conversation?
  • Will the person be better off when our interaction has ended?
  • How will I feel?
  • Do I appreciate the value of this relationship?
  • What are my underlying motives for this interaction?

I have found all of these questions to be very helpful when working with the leaders on my team.  I remember a conversation I had several years ago with one of my team leaders.  The leader called me to discuss a sensitive topic regarding something I had done.  My initial thought was “how dare you.”  However I did not verbally say this.  Instead I thought what do I really want to happen from this conversation.  I focused on the person and what they were saying.  I really sought to understand their perspective instead of trying to explain myself.  As a result of our time together, the time member felt heard and we continue to have crucial conversations when necessary.

Let’s look at the 5 steps to prepare for a crucial conversation.

  1. Keep your mind on the goal. By focusing on the goal you can avoid trying to win.  You are also able to gauge your emotions.
  2. Don’t accuse others. Seek to gain an understanding of the other person’s perspective.  That leads to another important step.
  3. Work on your listening skills. Develop a pattern of listening intently to others.
  4. Practice pausing. Before responding to the person, pause and think about your comments.
  5. Be willing to engage in the dialogue. Mentally being prepared to stay fully engaged in the dialogue will help you to avoid shutting down or arguing your point.

These steps will help you get the most out of each interaction.  Remember, keep your mind on the goal, don’t accuse others, work on your listening skills, practice pausing and be willing to engage in dialogue.  When you master these steps you will find that you really will get who you want from the interaction.

If you would like to learn more about the book Crucial Conversations and resources, click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s