Crucial Conversations – Chapter 7 section 1 (part 12 of 18)

Outspoken by whom? – Dorothy Parker, when told that she was very outspoken.


Chapter 7 – STATE My Path – How to Speak Persuasively, Not Abrasively

So far we’ve gone to great pains to prepare ourselves to step up to and master crucial conversations. Here’s what we’ve learned. Our hearts need to be in the right place. We need to pay close attention to crucial conversations – particularly when people start feeling unsafe – and restore safety when necessary. And heaven forbid that we should tell ourselves clever and unhelpful stories.

So let’s say that we are well prepared. We’re ready to open our mouths and start sharing our point of view. That’s right, we’re actually going to express our opinion. Now what?

To help us improve our advocacy skills, we’ll examine two challenging situations. First, we’ll look at five skills for talking when what we have to say could easily make others defensive. Second, we’ll explore how these same skills help us state our opinions when we believe so strongly in something that we risk shutting others down rather than opening them up to our ideas.



Adding information to the pool of meaning can be quite difficult when the ideas we’re about to pour into the collective consciousness contain delicate, unattractive, or controversial opinions. … It’s one thing to argue that your company needs to shift from green to red packaging; it’s quite another to tell a person that he or she is offensive or unlikable. When the topic turns from things to people, it’s always more difficult, and to nobody’s surprise, some people are better at it than others.

When it comes to sharing touchy information, the worstalternate between dumping their ideas into the pool of meaning and saying nothing at all. … Fearful they could easily destroy a healthy relationship, those who are good at dialogue say some of what’s on their minds, but they understate their views out of fear of hurting others. They talk all right, but they sugarcoat their message.

The bestat dialogue speak their minds completely and do it in a way that makes it safe for others to hear what they have to say and respond to it as well. They are both totally frank and completely respectful.



 In order to speak honestly when honesty could easily offend others, we have to find a way to maintain safety. That’s a bit like telling someone to smash another person in the nose, but, you know, don’t hurt him. How can we speak the unspeakable and still maintain respect? Actually, it can be done if you know how to carefully blend three ingredients – confidence, humility, and skill.

Confidence. Most people simply won’t hold delicate conversations – well, at least not with the right person. … People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it. They are confident that their opinions deserve to be placed in the pool of meaning. They are also confident that they can speak openly without brutalizing others or causing undue offense.

Humility. Confidence does not equate to arrogance or pigheadedness. Skilled people are confident that they have something to say, but also realize that others have valuable input. They are humble enough to realize that they don’t have a monopoly on the truth nor do they always have to win their way. Their opinions provide a starting point but not the final word. They may currently believe something but realize that with new information they may change their minds. The means they’re willing to both express their opinions and encourage others to do the same.

Skill. Finally, people who willingly share delicate information are good at doing it. That’s why they’re confident in the first place. They don’t make a Fool’s Choice, because they’ve found a path that allows for both candor and safety. They speak the unspeakable, and people are grateful for their honesty.



Start with Heart. Think about what you reallywant and how dialogue can help you get it. And master your story – realize that you may be jumping into a hasty Victim, Villain, or Helpless Story. The best way to find out the true story is not to act outthe worst story you can generate. That will lead to self-destructive silence and violence games. Think about other possible explanations long enough to temper your emotions so you can get to dialogue. Besides, if it turns out you’re right about your initial impression, there will be plenty of time for confrontations later.

Once you’ve worked on yourself to create the right conditions for dialogue, you can then draw upon five distinct skills that can help you talk about even the most sensitive topics. These five tools can be easily remembered with the acronym STATE. It stands for:

  • Share your facts
  • Tell your story
  • Ask for others’ paths
  • Talk tentatively
  • Encourage testing

The first three skills describe whatto do. The last two tell howto do it.