Cedrick LaFleur - "Talk Leadership with Cedrick on the Radio"
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What’s a Crucial Conversation? And Who Cares?
Crucial Conversation: “A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are
high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong” (p. 3) and the outcome greatly
impacts their lives.
My objective is to discuss how to have crucial conversations, what traps to avoid and to help you be successful in these conversations.
3 Ways of handling crucial conversations:
Face them and handle them poorly.
Face them and handle them well.
4 Reasons for handling crucial conversations poorly
(1) Biology: high adrenaline, high blood flow to arms and legs (fight or flight), low blood
flow to the brain.
(2) They arise without warning: catch us by surprise.
(3) Confusion: they required us to improvise, often without rehearsal time.
(4) Self-defeating behavior: we do or say the wrong thing, something that makes it
What You Need to Do
Start with Heart: How to Stay Focused on What You Really Want
At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information
Dialogue: “The free flow of meaning between two or more people”.
“Where bosses are smart, highly paid, confident, and outspoken (i.e. most of the world), people tend to hold back their opinions rather than risk angering someone in a position of power”.
When feeling threatened people tend to create a new goal of protecting themselves.
Protective goals include:
Questions that return you to dialogue:
What do I really want for myself?
What do I really want for others?
What do I really want for the relationship?
How would I behave if I really wanted these results?
Question to ask in places where dialogue doesn’t/can’t happen:
Isn’t there anyone you know who is able to hold a high-risk conversation in a way that solves the problem and builds relationships at the same time?
The great leaders will be able to Spot Crucial Conversations
Notice physical signals
Body responses: sweaty hands, dry mouth or eyes, etc.
Notice emotional signals
Anger – tightness of shoulders and neck
Hurt – tightness of chest
Fear – tightness of stomach
Notice behavioral signals
Raising of voice
Pointing of finger
Common forms of silence
MASKING: understating or selectively showing what you actually think.
Sarcasm, Sugarcoating, Couching, etc.
AVOIDING: not addressing the real issues.
Changing the subject, Shifting the focus to others, etc.
WITHDRAWING: not engaging in the conversation any longer.
Exiting the conversation or room all together.
VIOLENCE: convincing, controlling, or compelling others to your viewpoint.
Violates safety by forcing meaning into the pool
Common forms of violence
CONTROLLING: coercing others to your way of thinking
Cutting others off, overstating your facts, speaking in absolutes, dominating the conversation.
LABELING: stereotyping or categorizing people.
ATTACKING: belittling or threatening the other person.
Master Your Stories: How to Stay Calm When You’re Angry, Scared, or Hurt
“When it comes to strong emotions, you either find a way to master them or fall hostage
Worst at dialogue: hostage to your emotions and don’t even know it.
Good at dialogue: you know you need to control your emotions so you fake it.
Best at dialogue: negotiate your emotions by thinking them out.
Skills for Mastering Your Stories
Notice your behavior – ask:
Am I in some form of silence or violence?
Get in touch with your feelings – ask:
What emotions are encouraging me to act this way?
Analyze your stories – ask:
What story is creating these emotions?
Get back to the facts – ask:
What evidence do I have to support this story?
Here are the 3 Clever Stories we tell ourselves:
Clever stories “allow us to feel good about behaving badly even while achieving abysmal
Victim Stories – “it’s not my fault”
We are innocent sufferers
We ignore the role we play in contributing to the problem
We have nothing but the most noble of intentions
Villain Stories – “it’s all your fault”
We attribute negative motives to the other person
We exaggerate our own innocence
We overemphasize the other person’s guilt
We dehumanize the other person by making unfair generalizations
We justify our own ineffective behavior
Helpless Stories – “there’s nothing else I can do”
We assume there is no alternative to our predicament
Explains why we can’t do anything to change our situation
Attribute fixed and unchangeable traits to the other person
Create emotions that lead to healthy productive action – dialogue
To turn victims into actors – ask:
What am I pretending not to notice about how I contribute to this problem?
Am I minimizing my role while exaggerating the role of others?
To turn villains into humans – ask:
What would cause a reasonable, rational, decent human being to do what they are doing?
Replace judgment with empathy and self-justification with personal accountability.
Worry less about other’s intentions and more on the effect their actions have on us.
Dialogue is “the only reliable way of discovering others’ genuine motives”.
To turn the helpless into the able – ask:
What do I really want? For me? For others? For the relationship?
What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?
4 Listening Tools for helping others share their paths to action
Ask them to tell their stories
Mirror to confirm feelings
Paraphrase to acknowledge their story
Indicates you are trying to understand and that it is safe to continue talking
Prime when you’re getting nowhere
Say what you think they are most likely thinking
Use only if the other tools haven’t worked
Remember the ABCs
Agree: Agree where you do
Disagreement typically is over only 5-10% of the facts and stories
Build: If others leave something out, agree where you do, then build
Compare: When you do differ significantly, don’t suggest others are wrong.
Compare your two views.
Previous: Episode 7 Core Values of a Winning Team
Next: Episode 9 Best of Talk Leadership With Cedrick (Thanksgiving Special)
Written by: Cedrick LaFleur, LaFleur Leadership Institute
Source: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
By: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, & Ron McMillan
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