Our success in life is dictated by the quality of our relationships with others. Some people seem better at negotiating successful outcomes (for all) than others. They do this by working with people rather than through people. They are able to hold deeper, more honest conversations that deepen trust. When we are prepared to hold these conversations (early is usually better) we can stay in a state of integrity as we clarify responsibilities and expectations. When we let these conversations go by, we let standards slip and unwittingly give permission for unwanted behavior to continue.

The book Crucial Conversations (by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler) focuses on techniques on how to hold such conversations in a positive space when surrounded by highly charged emotions. Their findings are based on 25 years of research with 20,000 people. There are also videos and workbooks available to enhance group study.

Their model for engaging in a crucial conversation includes the following steps:

1) Start with the heart (i.e., empathy and positive intent)

2) Stay in dialogue

3) Make it safe

4) Don’t get hooked by emotion (or “hook” them)

5) Agree on a mutual purpose

6) Separate facts from story

7) Agree on a clear action plan

An audio book is available on YouTube: