Book Cover

Today we tackle Chapter 8 of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler. Arguably the feel of this re-read to date has had a bit of book report feel. Since this is a first read of the book for me, consuming what I have read has tended to be a reflection of how I have been consuming the concepts. We have approximately 3 weeks left, do you have ideas for the next book?  

Chapter 8 builds on Chapter 5’s message of establishing safety during a dialogue by adding a new step: exploring the other’s path of action. A quote that hooked me on the chapter was “You will never work through your differences until all parties freely add to the pool of meaning.” As a reminder, paths to action (Chapter 7) have four steps

  1. See and Hear
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Feel
  4. Act

In most circumstances, dialogue happens in the ‘act’ step of the process.The problem is that each person in the conversation is often oblivious to how the other arrived at this point. Boiled down to its most primitive form, Chapter 8 asks you to find out how the other people in the dialogue got to this point. The process for having others retrace their paths is:

  1. Invite others to share what’s on their minds. Asking works only if you really are sincere. Just asking does not equate to sincerity; how many times have you asked someone how they are as you are passing in the hall.  The only way this works to really mean it when you ask.
  2. Be curious. This step dovetails with sincerity. Be present and interested.
  3. Stay curious. As the others version of facts and their story is shared it is easy to react.  Staying curious helps you to stay less reactionary. 
  4. Be patient. The act of sharing their path will build an environment of safety. Emotions might take a while to catch up.  

Using a combination of curiosity and patience to get someone to retrace their path will also provide them with time to retest their facts and the story they have constructed.

The chapter also includes a section on inquiry skills.  The first set of skills discussed uses the acronym AMPP

Ask to get things rolling. Consider using clean language to keep your biases from directing the conversation. 

Mirror to confirm feelings. Mirroring establishes rapport. 

Paraphrase to acknowledge the story. Paraphrasing allows you to test understanding. Before you paraphrase, ensure you are sincere and do not use sarcasm. 

Prime the pump.  When all else fails, consider priming the pump by putting your interpretation on the table so the other can help guide you to a better interpretation.  

Remember that understanding does not equate to acceptance nor does sensitivity or empathy equate to acquiescence. Just because you understand what others are saying and how they got there doesn’t mean that they are right.

The final major topic in the chapter is titled remember your ABCs when having a dialogue. 

Agree – The authors point out that most arguments consist of battles over 5 to 10% of the facts and stories. People often agree on the majority of facts and stories. The advice is to recognize what you are on and move on. You do not have to turn an agreement into an argument. 

Build – Don’t make a little disagreement into a major disagreement (don’t turn a molehill into a mountain – a saying my mother often used). Agree on what you agree and build from there.

Compare – When you disagree with the other’s path, make comparisons between your path and their path rather than directly suggesting they are wrong. Comparisons generate more thought and less emotional reactions.

As with Chapter 5, Chapter 8 is about creating safety within a dialogue so that information can be pooled together. 

Previous entries:

Week 1 – Logistics, Forewards, and Preface 

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

Week 3 – Chapter 2: The Power of Dialogue  

Week 4 – Chapter 3: Start With Heart 

Week 5 – Learn To Look

Week 6 – Make It Safe 

Week 7 – Master my Stories 

Week 8 – State My Path 

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).