Crucial Conversations – A Book in Five Minutes

If you’re looking for an easy self-help style book that will help you in any and accll areas of your life – look no further. Someone told one of the authors of this book that the book changed their life. They didn’t actually read more than the title, but it changed their life! There is some truth in that idea. This book has a lot of strategies and complex steps you’ll go through before realizing that much of what you’ve read you already knew or knew some of before starting. You’ll probably have a hard time keeping all of those new steps straight, anyhow.

I think there is real value in recognizing that certain conversations carry more weight and have a propensity to get heated. Here are the three ingredients to a Crucial Conversation:

  1. Stakes are high
  2. Strong emotions
  3. Opposing views

Basically, if you’re given the chance, you’ll become argumentative. Now you know. That’s the introduction of the book. The rest of the book explains what to do about it and a lot about why you feel the way you do during an argument. You need to first begin to notice Crucial Conversations in your life and then reflect on your own style of handling them. Here’s the gist of what you need to do next:

Silence or Violence. People find themselves moving into one of two extremes during a Crucial Conversation. Silence is when you back off, fall silent, and stew – violence is when you move to anger, aggression, or yell your opinion even louder. Productive conversation happens somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Start with the Heart. When you are in an argument, be sure to focus on what you really want by remembering your shared purpose and values. Of course, be sure to speak respectfully and avoid moving to silence or violence.

Make it safe! The authors spend a long time making sure everyone understands that if it isn’t safe, productive and positive conversations cannot happen. Take a breather, cool off. Return to your mutual purpose.

Listen and share facts. Stick with facts. Listen without jumping to conclusions and by asking questions, mirroring, and paraphrasing. 

Move to action. Make a plan that includes next steps.

And that’s about it! I hope you enjoyed this synopsis. I’d highly recommend reading (or re-reading!) Crucial Conversations. It’s one worth keeping around on the shelf.

Patterson, K, Grenny J, McMillan R, Switzler, A. (2011). Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. McGraw-Hill Education.

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