We read 'Crucial Conversations' and this is what we learned

Many defining moments in life are shaped by the way we engage in important conversations. Whether it’s personal or work-related, when it comes down to a tough conversation that needs to be had – the kind where emotions run high and opinions greatly vary – listening and speaking up at the right time can be crucial. And much like art, having a proper and meaningful dialogue takes practice.

As a team, we recently read Crucial Conversations – a book that offers insights and tools needed for talking when the stakes are high. It sure stirred up some interesting discussions within the team. Here are five takeaways we want to share.

Safety First

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, it’s important that everyone involved feels safe. If people feel safe, they will open up and talk freely. If they don’t, you know you’re in a crucial situation and will need to change your approach to get out of it. That means learning to look within, since you’re the only one you can control in a dialogue, but also looking for signs of fear with the other. If people start to fight or flight, by forcing their views, staying silent or by changing the topic, you know you need to bring the conversation back to safety.

Change your story

People create their own stories behind an event or experience and because they don’t talk about it, they tend to react based on (their story or) their version of things. It’s always easier to turn others into villains when they say or do something you don’t like. Most of the time it’s not their intent to make you feel bad. When you react and treat your conversational partner like they have done bad by you, you’re most likely to get even further away from your initial goal. Change the story you tell yourself and take charge of your emotions, so your feelings won’t drive your actions during a conversation.

Facts, facts, facts

What really struck with us and helped us a lot is quite simple but often overlooked: to always mention the facts. Facts are the most persuasive argument but often it’s clouded by emotions. Take the time to straighten out the facts and keep the dialogue on track. That way a calm and collected crucial conversation is ensured.

Sarcasm much?

Another interesting insight was use of sarcasm, something we are definitely not unfamiliar with. Though often meant as wit, sarcasm is basically criticism disguised as humor. It made a lot of sense to us once we understood how sarcasm is a type of masking, which is when we understate or selectively show our true opinions. Being more aware of this now we often see how people are not communicating effectively, because they are not in dialogue. So, tone down the sarcasm and focus on creating an environment where everyone feels safe to speak. Creating awareness around the use and effects of sarcasm, among other things, was a great first step for us to take.

Learn to look and stay curious

When talking about the book, its contents and the several examples given, we realized how much crucial conversations are the solid foundation of our lives, work and relationships and even affect our health and how we feel. We encounter crucial interactions every day so effective communication during those moments cannot be overlooked. There’s not one big lesson to take from this book, since your personal style of communication has a lot to do with what you have to work on to communicate efficiently. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that learning to look at what happens around you and staying curious towards others helps to establish a safe environment for people to talk. Not an easy skill to master, but one that can make a big difference in so many areas in work and life if you ask us.