Achieving Results with Crucial Conversations

Dear family, friends, colleagues, and visitors,

I invite you to join me on a journey to having crucial conversations.

What is a crucial conversation you ask?
A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012, p. 3).

When we face crucial conversations, we tend to handle them poorly. We’re designed wrong, we’re under pressure, we’re stumped, and we act in self-defeating ways (Patterson et al., 2012, p. 5-6). The key skill of effective leaders, teammates, parents, and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues (p. 10).

So, how do we handle crucial conversations well?
We use dialogue. We find a way to get all relevant information from ourselves and others out into the open (p. 23). We do this by doing our best to make it safe for everyone to add meaning to the shared pool (a combination of the opinions, feelings, theories, and experiences of all those who enter a conversation) (p. 24).

According to Crucial Conversations (2012), the key factors in having a well-handled crucial conversation are as follows:

1. Start with Heart
2. Learn to Look
3. Make It Safe
4. Master My Stories
5. STATE My Path
6. Explore Others’ Paths
7. Move to Action (p. 214-216)

Now, if I defined, explained, and modeled each key factor, it’d be like handing you the book itself. But! Interestingly, this book isn’t about communication. It’s about results—profoundly improving the results you care about most (p. 222).

So, now we’re talking about results?
Using and implementing the key factors of crucial conversations is an important aspect of being a self-differentiated leader. This is a leader that develops and leads strategies and plans that need to be implemented within his/her organization. This is where I apply the key factors of having crucial conversations in order to get the results I care about most—implementing my Project-Based e-Learning initiative (PBeL). And having crucial conversations isn’t limited to a professional setting, the key factors can also be applied to personal situations. Consider these three (fictitious) scenarios:

Scenario 1: My significant other isn’t happy about the amount of time I am spending on working towards designing and implementing my PBeL initiative at home and at work.

Scenario 2: I need to convince my boss of the reason why implementing a PBeL initiative will improve students’ learning environments and experiences in the classroom.

Scenario 3: My colleagues believe things are fine just the way they are. They don’t agree with changing their classroom routine.

All of these complications can be handled well with the use and implementation of Crucial Conversations’ key factors for using dialogue. And here is where I extend my invitation to you to use these factors for today and now.

“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”

-William Hazlitt


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


One thought on “Achieving Results with Crucial Conversations

  1. Pingback: Leading Organization Change – Lifelong Learning in a Changing World

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