In these days when people are becoming more comfortable with communicating via text or Twitter, and less comfortable with face-to-face communication, the art of conversation seems like a dying art.
A colleague who works at a medical training company told me that the young medical school graduates she trains have difficulty maintaining eye contact. They are more comfortable with their smartphone screens. These are the healers of the future?
Even before this new technology came along, people have had difficulty in facing conversations that could be described as crucial.
What’s a crucial conversation?
A discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, emotions run strong, and the outcome greatly impacts their lives.
Most people are uncomfortable with conflict and would rather avoid a crucial conversation out of fear that the conversation will go terribly wrong. Avoiding the inevitable never works. The issue remains. The other two ways to handle a crucial conversation is to face it and handle it poorly, or to face it and handle it well.
I think we can agree that two of the common instances of a crucial conversation are when we are dealing with either our partner or dealing with our boss! We just can’t get away from it! Communication is key!
Sometimes a crucial conversation can arise without warning and we have to face it without dodging. Wouldn’t it be better if we had the proper tools?
The New York Times best-seller Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, outlines seven principles to follow to become a master of conversation.
One: Start with heart – What do you really want for yourself, for others, for the relationship?
Two: Learn to look – for the warning signs when conversation turns crucial, the signs that people don’t feel safe. Nothing kills the flow of dialogue more than fear.
Three: Make it safe – Apologize when necessary, repair misunderstandings, commit to seek mutual purpose.
Four: Master your story – Be aware of your emotions and be able to separate facts from emotions. Be aware of emotionally charged words. Don’t be the victim, the villain, or the one who is helpless.
Five: State your path – Maintain respect while sharing your facts, and ask for others’ stories. Be tentative and encourage testing the waters.
Six: Explore others’ paths – Listen. Ask them to tell their story and mirror to confirm feelings.
Seven: Move to decide – Decide from the beginning how a decision will be made, whether by an outside authority, consultation when many are affected, voting when there are a number of good options, or consensus when everyone honestly agrees to one decision.
The most important thing to remember is that by not facing an issue, you may have already lost the battle. We can regret the things we say, but more often that not, we can regret the things that go unsaid.
A simple, heart-felt conversation may turn out to reveal that a problem was all in your mind from the beginning. There is so much to gain from that crucial conversation.
For more in-depth information on how to hone your conversation skills, pick up a copy of Crucial Conversations.
A lot of problems in the world would disappear if we talk to each other, instead of about each other. Practice true conversation.