Crucial Conversations – Chapter 3 (part 4 of 18)

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. – Ambrose Bierce


Chapter 3 – Start with Heart. How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want.

It’s time to turn to the howof dialogue. How do you encourage the flow of meaning in the face of differing opinions and strong emotions? Given the average person’s track record, it can’t be all that easy. In fact, given that most people’s style is based on long-standing habits, it’ll probably require a lot of effort. The truth is, people can change. … But it requires work. You can’t simply drink a magic potion and walk away changed. Instead, you’ll need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

In fact, this is the first principle of dialogue – Start with Heart. That is, your ownheart. If you can’t get yourself right, you’ll have a hard time getting dialogue right. When conversations become crucial, you’ll resort to the forms of communication that you’ve grown up with – debate, silent treatment, manipulation, and so on.



Here’s how people who are skilled at dialogue stay focused on their goals – particularly when the going gets tough.

Work on Me First, Us Second

  • Remember that the only person you can directly control is yourself.

Focus on What You ReallyWant

  • When you find yourself moving towards silence or violence, stop and pay attention to your motives.
  • Ask yourself: “What does my behavior tell me about what my motives are?”
  • Then, clarify what you really Ask yourself: “What do I want for myself? For others? For the relationship?”
  • And finally ask: “How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?”

Refuse the Fool’s Choice

  • As you consider what you want, notice when you start talking yourself into a Fool’s Choice.
  • Watch to see if you’re telling yourself that you must choose between peace and honesty, between winning and losing, and so on.
  • Break free of these Fool’s Choices by searching for the and.
  • Clarify what you don’t want, add it to what you do want, and ask your brain to start searching for healthy options to bring you to dialogue.