Crucial Conversations – Chapter 11 (part 18 of 18)

I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me. – Dave Barry


Chapter 11 – Putting It All Together – Tools for Preparing and Learning


Learn to Look. The first lever for positive change is Learn to Look. That is, people who improve their dialogue skills continually ask themselves whether they’re in or out of dialogue. This alone makes a huge difference. Even people who can’t remember or never learned the skills of STATE or AMPP, etc., are able to benefit from this material by simply asking if they’re falling into silence or violence. They may not know exactly how to fix the specific problem they’re facing, but they do know that if they’re not in dialogue, it can’t be good. And then they try something to get back to dialogue. As it turns out, trying something is better than doing nothing.

So remember to ask the following important question: “Are we playing games or are we in dialogue?” It’s a wonderful start.

Make It Safe. The second lever is Make It Safe. We’ve suggested that dialogue consists of the free flow of meaning and that the number one flow stopper is a lack of safety. When you notice that you and others have moved away from dialogue, do something to make it safer. Anything.

These too levers form the basis for recognizing, building, and maintaining dialogue. When the concept of dialogue is introduced, these are the ideas most people can readily take in and apply to crucial conversations. Now let’s move on to a discussion of the rest of the principles we’ve covered.



Here’s one last tool to help you turn these ideas into action. It’s a powerful way of coaching yourself – or another person – through a crucial conversation. It can literally help you identify the precise place you are getting stuck and the specific skill that can help you get unstuck. [Table on Page 214]



Let’s end where we started. We begin this book by suggesting we got dragged somewhat unwillingly into the topic of communication. What we were most interested in was notwriting a book on communication. Rather, we wanted to identify crucial moments– moments when people’s actions disproportionately affect their organizations, their relationships, and their lives. Our research led us time and again to focus on moments when people need to step up emotionally and politically risky conversations. That’s why we came to call these moments crucial conversations. The current quality of your leadership and your life is fundamentally a function of how you are presently handling these moments.

Our sole motivation in writing this book has been to help you profoundly improve the results you care about most. And your dearest hope as we conclude it is that you will do so. Take action. Identify a crucial conversation you could improve now. Use the tools in this last chapter to identify the principle or skill that will help you approach it in a more effective way than you ever have. Then give it a try.

One thing our research shows clearly is that you need not be perfect to make progress. We promise you that if you persist and work at these ideas, you will see dramatic improvement in your relationships and results. These moments are truly crucial, and a little bit of change can lead to an enormous amount of progress.