• Madhumita Gopal

Mastering Crucial Conversations

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

As a part of our competency building activity at Hyperverge, we read the book - Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. A short 92 pages book, it gave immense clarity on how we often come across very critical conversations in our life and how, at those most critical moments - we tend to perform our worst. Be it talking to to a difficult coworker, conversation with our spouses or family, we face a lot of conversations that are high on emotions on one or both the sides. This book talks about how we can identify when a conversation turns fragile and how to keep a calm mind and lead the conversation to a productive end. Here are my takeaways from the book!

1. Focus on what we really want from the conversation

What exactly do we want from this conversation for ourself, and for the other person?

What do we not want from this conversation?

Do we want to make the other person aggressive?

These are the most important aspect to keep in mind when we are having a crucial conversation, and this will align the conversation to ensure we are always mindful of the final goal of the conversation.

2. We should learn to look for indications of when the conversation turns critical - Silence and Violence.

If our tone of conversation makes the other people involved in the conversation uncomfortable - it will reflect in their actions. Either they will feel their contribution to the conversation is not valued and stop talking, or they will feel attacked and react aggressively. We should be aware of such responses. Identifying those moments will help ensure we guide the conversation in a safe and productive direction.

3. Establish Mutual Purpose and Mutual Respect in the conversation

Establishing these two will make the conversation safe, without attacking anyone's sense of identity or triggering their self defense. If the listener is feeling threatened, alleviate their fears by trying to contrast what they would be thinking to what you are trying to achieve - the Mutual Purpose.

4. Ensure you are not caught up in your own stories

We love stories. We have facts, and we connect them to make stories in our head - which often leads us to forget the facts. In fact, it is proven that we can recreate completely false memories in our head about things that never really happened and be convinced about their veracity. During a conversation, we should encourage facts and not stories. We should stay aware of two types of stories - stories where we present ourselves as helpless victim of the situation, and stories where we portray the other person as the villain.

5. Understand the story of the other person.

Ask them if something is bothering them, or if we are already aware of what that is, then ask them if they want to talk about it. Mirror their concerns, which we would already be aware of, and make it comfortable for them to talk about it. Paraphrase their response to establish a path of mutual respect and purpose. This will help Prime the conversation towards a healthy and productive end

6. Summarize the conversation and the key takeaways.

At the very end, we should summarize the conversation and ensure everyone involved has on what needs to be done next. We can assign tasks for everyone to work on, and this will ensure no part of the conversation gets missed.

These simple, mindful activities during any conversation will ensure drastic improvement in quality of our conversations and life, because - what is life if not coffee and conversations :)

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