Summary of Crucial Conversations

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Crucial Conversations book summary

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Many people recoil from “crucial conversations,” where they have to negotiate to get ahead. Kerry Patterson and his co-authors describe techniques for effective negotiation and conflict resolution in the context of potentially life-changing conversations. Examples include talking yourself into a promotion, bringing up important data at meetings and working out problems with your spouse. Some tips sound familiar, but the authors also highlight themes people often forget in negotiations, such as making it safe for others to express themselves, avoiding being forced into false choices, and being alert to unstated agendas or alternatives. 

About the Authors

Kerry Patterson, a consultant on culture-change projects, develops video-based training programs. Joseph Grenny is an executive coach. Ron McMillan, co-founder of the Covey Leadership Center, is a leadership consultant. Al Switzler teaches at the University of Michigan. The authors founded VitalSmarts in 1990 and wrote The Balancing Act: Mastering the Competing Demands of Leadership.

Summary

“Crucial conversations” are needed when the outcome is important, when people disagree and when emotions are heated.

Crucial conversations are those everyday interactions that significantly affect your life. They differ from ordinary dialogues because the opinions of the participants vary, their emotions are high and the stakes are significant. The way you deal with these important discussions can have a positive or negative result and change the course of your life. Some examples of crucial conversations include breaking up or reconciling with a partner, giving your boss feedback or asking for a pay rise. Often, people shy away from such conversations or handle them poorly. The best way to deal with such situations is to face up to the conversation and handle it with skill.

Research with more than 20,000 people in hundreds of organizations showed that influential people – those who have successfully achieved their goals and built strong personal and professional relationships – develop an ability to handle crucial conversations effectively. They are skilled in discussing difficult, controversial, high-stakes topics. Cultivating that ability will...


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