This week we continue our re-read of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler with Chapter 2, titled Mastering Crucial Conversations: The Power of Dialogue. The chapter begins with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that highlights the problem with staying silent. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

The first part of the chapter describes how the authors found super influential people within organizations and then identified the attributes that made them more influential than others. One crucial attribute was not staying silent.

The first major take away in the chapter is the identification of the fool’s choice. A fool’s choice is a mistaken belief that you have to speak up and turn powerful people against you versus suffering in silence and accepting bad decisions. The most influential people find a way to be 100% honest and at the same time staying 100% respectful, therefore avoiding the fool’s choice. You might see this as common sense but in reality, it is HUGELY difficult.

Dialogue is the tool the authors use to avoid the fool’s choice. The definition in the book of dialogue is “the free flow of meaning between two or more people”. One of the goals of a dialog is to build a pool of shared knowledge that allows people to communicate more effectively. At the beginning of any dialog, there is a need to share information and to establish participant’s opinions and biases.  The authors point out that how we make the situation safe for pooling information and building a shared understanding is at the heart of the rest of the book. The need to establish a shared understanding goes back to the opening quote from Dr. King. Silence is just another form of withholding of information that weakens the decision-making process. Just as problematic as silence, when a person feels frozen out of a dialog they can either try to force information into the pool or withdraw.  

The authors use the quote, “The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy“ as an anchor for the rest of the book.  

Does the metaphor of a shared pool make sense? Have you seen scenarios where information is withheld during a decision-making process?  What was the outcome?

Previous installments:

Week 1 – Logistics, Forewards, and Preface 

Week 2 – Chapter 1: What’s a crucial conversation? And who cares? 

If you do not have a copy or have tossed it at someone during a crucial conversation, it is time to buy a copy. Please use the link (using the link helps support the blog and podcast).


Before you move on . . .

Jon M Quigley and I are starting an online book club to read and discuss the classic books that underpin the lean, quality and agile movements.  The name is a nod to “Quality, Agile, and Lean Classic Books: Greatness in the Workplace” to the content. The first book is Out Of The Crisis by Deming (don’t have a copy —

We are starting our dialog on Friday, April 10th and the event will run over 7 sessions (we will avoid as many religious and national holidays as possible). We are only opening 10 seats for each group of sessions. We are changing a one time fee of $3.13 which equates to 4.95 (ish) once Eventbrite factors in their fees to encourage people that sign up to show up.

Each session will be outlined in the supplemental material provided for the book club. The materials will include definitions of keywords and a series of questions to ponder for each chapter as you read through the book. We are limiting the book club to 10 participants to facilitate ease of discussion of the text and to allow interaction. Tom Cagley and Jon M Quigley will be your guides through the material, posing follow on questions that guide you through the exploration of the work.

Note, we will record each of the sessions in case everyone will not be able to attend every week.

Sign up at