How to Have Crucial Conversations – Part 1

I’ve been having issues with a couple of coworkers at work and for obvious reasons, will not disclose the details of the interactions publicly. The last two weeks were particularly stressful, but as I was speaking with a few friends, one of them suggested that I pick up Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High. Since I’m not near any bookstores, I purchased it on instead.

I started last Sunday and am already a halfway through. It reminds me very much of Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charmisa Myth, but this book focuses specifically on the psychology of how to identify, approach and handle “crucial conversations”.  What makes a conversation “crucial”?

  • The stakes are high
  • Opinions on the topic vary greatly
  • Emotions run strong
  • The results can have a large impact on your life

We go through crucial conversations fairly often. We can either avoid them, handle them poorly or handle them well. Unfortunately, most of us are not skilled at handling delicate conversations; we often allow our ‘fight or flight’ response to take over. The result is that we may be shouting at each other and giving the silent treatment. In the end, we are now in a place worse off than we’ve started!

I know for myself I prefer the silent treatment. I believe that at least this buys me more processing time and is less damaging than shouting or hurling insults. It also seems, initially, a better path towards the yogic notion of ahimsa. However, evading conflict or brushing things under the table is still counter-productive in the long run. As I finished chapter 3 this morning, I took a survey to find out my “style under stress” to see if I really do lean towards silence rather than violence. The results probably are not a surprise.


Sometimes I am able to speak out and explicitly identify an issue with my peers. However, when the level of discomfort increases, I tend to clam up. I feel that lately that has been happening. It is definitely something in my life that I need to work on. For now, just making note of this as I continue to finish my book.


One thought on “How to Have Crucial Conversations – Part 1

  1. Pingback: How to Have Crucial Conversations – Part 2 | Stumbling Through My Thirties

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