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Crucial Confrontations

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Crucial Confrontations

Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Fight against meekness and rage, consider the issues and then go out on the tightrope for that crucial little chat.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Although confrontation is difficult for many people, it is often necessary. Failure to confront someone over bad behavior may be misinterpreted as approval. Confrontations can help bring people back to a better, more productive course. However, confrontations also can go off track and become shouting matches (or worse). Authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler outline a method for approaching confrontations when the stakes are particularly high; those are the crucial confrontations. Boiled down to its essentials, the methodology consists of focusing on facts, remaining calm, listening to the other person with respect and working to motivate the other person and to enable a change in behavior. The book is light, anecdotal and easy to read. Yet, getAbstract finds that it offers so much sound advice that any manager, parent or spouse could find something useful.


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What is a crucial confrontation?

  • Crucial means that the stakes are high - For example, in 1982 a plane crashed, killing 74 people. Tapes of the cockpit conversation indicated that the copilot was trying to warn the pilot about ice buildup on the wings, but didn't have the courage to confront him directly.
  • Confrontations are about accountability - To confront means to demand accountability. Confrontation seems to suggest conflict, but when done well a confrontation can be a way of resolving problems and improving relationships.

Confrontations are particularly difficult when the people involved are not of the same rank or status. Many people are reluctant to question those of higher status or authority, but that very fear of speaking up or rocking the boat has led to disasters large and small. In one case, a middle-aged man entered a medical clinic to be treated for an earache, but he was given a vasectomy. Although he was awake while the staff readied him for surgery, he did not ask why they were working so far from his ear.

People mishandle crucial confrontations two ways, either due to meekness or due to anger. Instead...

About the Authors

Kerry Patterson writes training programs and is an executive coach. Joseph Grenny, a keynote speaker and consultant, co-founded the California Computer Corporation and the nonprofit organization, Unitus. Ron McMillan co-founded the Covey Leadership Center. Al Switzler is on the faculty of the Executive Development center at the University of Michigan.

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