Reading Time: 3 minutes

This book review is on a book by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny, Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (Second Edition). The authors note that “Unfortunately, close to 80 percent of the projects that require cross-functional cooperation cost far more than expected, produce less than hoped for, and run significantly over budget.” (p. 12) There is no citation on this statistic. The 80% may be high, but the point is valid. The authors believe a root problem is people’s inability to have difficult conversations.

Some takeaways include:

  • Use open-ended questions to get relevant information on the table. Make it safe for everyone to contribute. When groups really engage in dialogue about difficult subjects it’s easier to get commitment to the final decision.
  • The only person we can really change is the one in the mirror. So, start asking what your contribution to the problem might be. “Start with Heart” (p. 33) – begin with the right motives and stay focused on your ultimate objective. Be aware that when people have a strong need to win, that can make healthy dialogue harder.
  • Stay focused on your goal, by asking yourself tough questions, such as:
    • “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?” (p. 43)
  • Find a mutual purpose. Look for win-win solutions. Insist on mutual respect and look for actions that suggest that people feel unsafe. Embrace the common humanity, and accept that we all have weaknesses.
  • Blend skill, confidence and humility to maintain respect while still engaging openly and honestly. Five tools for improving your skill are:
    • “Share your facts
    • Tell your story
    • Ask for others’ paths
    • Talk tentatively
    • Encourage testing” (p. 136) (Acronym: STATE)


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