Haven’t we all?
And though we long for them to be harmonious and love-directed, they often fall short.
According to the authors of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High, these are interactions that happen to everyone. They’re the pivotal and sometimes day-to-day conversations that affect your life.
My friend Laura and I read the book several months ago and the principles have already lead each of us through some tricky relational terrain. So when we had a chance to attend a Vital Smarts Crucial Conversations workshop to learn more about how to handle these “discussions between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong,” we jumped at the chance.
The presenter, Steve Willis, commonly works with businesses, but within the first five minutes of his talk, an attendee asked him,
“How do these principles work with your sons?”
Steve, the father of three boys, smiled. “Especially well with teens . . . and CEOs.”
I leaned forward in my chair. How many conversations have I avoided or botched because I haven’t known how to navigate the tough issues? Because I was afraid of someone’s anger or dismissive attitude?
I’m not alone. According to Steve, the people who have difficulty holding crucial conversations are . . .
Only one percent of us actually have unbridled confidence when entering difficult interactions. The rest of us either dodge the conversations or don’t hold them well. The outcome? “Strained relationships and dismal results.”
Instead, he said, 78% of us complain to others about the problem, 66% of us do unnecessary work to sidestep the conversation, 53% of us ruminate enough to affect our productivity and morale, and 50% of us get angry. None of these solve the problem, but in fact escalate it. The longer we wait to address the problem, the worse it gets.
“When we dodge hard conversations,” Steve said, “It’s not because of bystander apathy, but bystander agony. We don’t know what to do. ”
Next thing you know, an elephant moves into the spare bedroom.
This book will help you look at your own tendencies in a crucial conversation and how they can derail problem-solving and relationship. Then the authors offer practical understanding and steps that enable you to evict the elephant and change dynamics for the better.
And the biggest predictor of success in these defining conversations?
You may be surprised. In every crucial conversation, as you work to understand each other and problem-solve, your success will be determined by how much psychological safety you can infuse into the dynamics.
I’ll leave it to the authors to show you how.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
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