Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler

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I didn’t know what I was stepping into. Strained voices were raised. Pointed accusations flew like snowballs across the narrow distance between the individuals. Trying to scramble for control of the situation I treaded water verbally, first succeeding, then flailing, and then failing monumentally, shifting from mediator to combatant in one fell swoop. It was one of my most significant moments of failure as a pastor and a man.

Your failure in the midst of crucial conversations might not be as dramatic. In fact, maybe you failed by turning tail and running. That’s what is so difficult about these turning-point moments: failure is easy, success is hard.

Crucial Conversations is aimed at equipping the reader with a number of tools to use to navigate high pressure and high consequence conversations. Who couldn't improve in their ability to navigate these conversations? Unlike a lot of books in a similar genre, the authors present several different tools in the course of the book to help navigate these conversations. The book is therefore very content rich and not easy to reduce to a simple technique or phrase. Here is the most concise summary I can come up with: in the midst of crucial conversations, check your heart, listen well, and respond thoughtfully.

The authors rightly point out in chapter three that approaching a crucial conversation well has to begin with our own hearts. What is my motive going into this conversation? What do I really want? And then checking your own heart and making sure that your motives are directed in a pure course. Am I in this to be right? To win? For revenge? How can I check the potential for me to fall into the sucker’s choice of “either/or” thinking and move instead to “and” thinking.

Chapters 4-5 talk about how to analyze situations both in terms of their content and their conditions to evaluate how to best situate a conversation for the best chance of being successful. I appreciated, in particular, the direction in helping to move a conversation to a safe place for all parties involved. The authors encouraged the use of the CRIB method:

Commit to seek Mutual Purpose.

Recognize the purpose behind the strategy.

Invent a Mutual Purpose.

Brainstorm new strategies.

The next several chapters talk about the ways in which we interpret data and create stories which shape our emotions and interpretations of these stories. They said problematic stories can often fall into three types: victim stories, villain stories, and helpless stories. They encouraged the use of the STATE my path method to help reshape the interpretation of these stories in a healthier manner:

Share your facts

Tell your story

Ask for others’ paths

Talk tentatively.

Encourage testing.

Finally, two tools were offered to help navigate others’ paths and stories and seek a mutually beneficial place together. Those tools were AMPP to help listen well and ABC to respond well. Listening well looks like:





And responding well when you listen looks like:




It's a lot to take in and certainly content and skills that continue to need to be revisited to grow in. I highly encourage you to pick up Crucial Conversations and sharpen skills for those critical moments. I'm grateful for this book and look forward to growing in navigating crucial conversations.