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Crucial Conversations

Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
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Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

We’ve all been in situations where rational discussions get quickly out of hand, and Crucial Conversations investigates the root causes of this problem. You’ll learn techniques to handle such situations and shape them into becoming positive and solutions-oriented, while preventing your high-stakes conversations from turning into shouting matches.

Key idea 1 of 9

Crucial conversations provoke an over-emotional and irrational response.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your partner and realized that what you were actually having was an argument? Probably! These are often crucial conversations, characterized by high tension and high emotions, and an inability to effectively manage them can lead us into trouble.

For one thing, it’s difficult to think rationally when confronted with such a conversation. Part of this has to do with the rush of adrenaline released when emotions run high in order to heighten our senses. The body can’t tell the difference between a heated discussion and true danger, so it prepares itself for a sudden fight or flight. This split-second decision making, however, comes at the expense of clear and rational thinking.

This is compounded by the fact that important conversations tend to arise out of the blue, without a moment’s time for preparation. Imagine, for example, that your partner tells you that he or she wants to break up. Likely, you haven’t expected this at all and your reaction will be totally spontaneous. Rather than rationally discussing the pros and cons of a breakup with your partner, your instincts will kick in and your conversation will devolve into a shouting match.

There are many reasons to want to master crucial conversations, as those who do can better succeed in their private and public lives. For example, according to surveys of more than 20,000 people in various companies, those who mastered crucial conversations are better able to tackle challenges and thus often become the opinion leaders in their organizations.

In addition, couples who can handle such conversations are more likely to stay together. In fact, they can reduce their chances of a breakup by up to 50 percent!

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