When people first hear the term “crucial conversation,” many conjure up images of presidents, emperors, and prime ministers seated around a massive table while they debate the future of the world. Although it’s true that such discussions have a widesweeping and lasting impact, they’re not the kind we have in mind.
The crucial conversations we’re referring to in the title of this book are interactions that happen to everyone. They’re the day-to-day conversations that affect your life. Now, what makes one of your conversations crucial as opposed to plain vanilla? First, opinions vary. For example, you’re talking with your boss about a possible promotion. She thinks you’re not ready; you think you are. Second, stakes are high.
You’re in a meeting with four coworkers and you’re trying to pick a new marketing strategy. You’ve got to do something different or your company isn’t going to hit its annual goals. Third, emotions run strong. You’re in the middle of a casual discussion with your spouse and he or she brings up an “ugly incident” that took place at yesterday’s neighborhood block party.
Apparently not only did you flirt with someone at the party, but according to your spouse, “You were practically making out.” You don’t remember flirting. You simply remember being polite and friendly. Your spouse walks off in a huff. And speaking of the block party, at one point you’re making small talk with your somewhat crotchety and always colorful neighbor about his shrinking kidneys when he says, “Speaking of the new fence you’re building … “From that moment on you end up in a heated debate over placing the new fence-three inches one way or the other. Three inches! He finishes by threatening you with a lawsuit, and you punctuate your points by mentioning that he’s not completely aware of the difference between his hind part and his elbow. Emotions run really strong.
What makes each of these conversations crucial-and not simply challenging, frustrating, frightening, or annoying-is that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life.
In each case, some element of your daily routine could be forever altered for better or worse. Clearly a promotion could make a big difference. Your company’s success affects you and everyone you work with. Your relationship with your spouse influences every aspect of your life. Even something as trivial as a debate over a property line affects how you get along with your neighbor. If you handle even a seemingly insignificant conversation poorly, you establish a pattern of behavior that shows up in all of your crucial conversations.
By definition, crucial conversations are about tough issues. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to back away from discussions we fear will hurt us or make things worse. We’re masters at avoiding these tough conversations. Coworkers send email to caI.:h other when they should walk down the hall and talk turkey. Bosses leave voice mail in lieu of meeting with their direct reports. Family members change the subject when an issue gets too risky. We (the authors) have a friend who learned through a voice-mail message that his wife was divorcing him. We use all kinds of tactics to dodge touchy issues. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you know how to handle (even master) crucial conversations, you can step up to and effectively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.
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Learn how to keep your cool and get the results you want when emotions flare.
When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, you have three choices: Avoid a crucial conversation and suffer the consequences; handle the conversation badly and suffer the consequences; or read Crucial Conversations and discover how to communicate best when it matters most. Crucial Conversations gives you the tools you need to step up to life’s most difficult and important conversations, say what’s on your mind, and achieve the positive resolutions you want. You’ll learn how to:
- Prepare for high-impact situations with a six-minute mastery technique
- Make it safe to talk about almost anything
- Be persuasive, not abrasive
- Keep listening when others blow up or clam up
- Turn crucial conversations into the action and results you want
Whether they take place at work or at home, with your neighbors or your spouse, crucial conversations can have a profound impact on your career, your happiness, and your future. With the skills you learn in this book, you’ll never have to worry about the outcome of a crucial conversation again.
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