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Crucial Conversations Summary

Crucial Conversations


1. Prepare, 2. Speak, 3. Resist, 4. Build, 5. Decide

  1. Prepare: Purpose, Facts, Story, and start question
  2. Speak:
    1. Share the facts
    2. Tell the story, without assuming veracity
    3. Ask the other person's opinion
  3. Resist (If Violence/Silence):
    1. Stop: Stop adding fire, acknoledge what just happened, and apologize if necessary
    2. Purpose: Contrast, state your purpose
    3. Ask: Show genuine curiosity with AMPP (ask, mirror, pasphrase, prime)
  4. Build: Use ABC (agree, build, compare) and brainstorm
  5. Decide: Define clear responsibilities making people accountable with deadlines

Conversations in which the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions are strong.


  • To ensure a crucial conversation goes well, you need to foster dialog.
  • You need to remove the midnset of winning or punishing someone.
  • Dialog is safe, where you see the other as a Human not as a Villian, and you see yourself as a an Actor, not a Victim
  • Safety allows you to speak freely
  • When there's no safety you tend to defend yourself.
  • The goal of dialog is to find a shared pool of meaning.
  • Ask yourself constantly: "Are we playing games or in dialog"

Pool of Meaning

Where both parties can work and build from there up to their differences.

To achieve it, always ask yourself:

  • What do I really want for myself, for others, and for our relantionship?
  • How would I behave if really wanted these results?

Unsafe Conversations

When a conversation isn't safe there are two paths:

1. Silence

  • Masking: We hide what we are feeling with different forms of sarcasm
  • Sugar-coating: We try to make it sound better than it really is
  • Withdrawing: We don't even participate of it
  • Avoiding: We change the topic

2. Violence

  • Controlling: We try to enforce our way of thinking by either:
    • Cutting people off
    • Overstating the facts
    • Speaking absolutes
    • Direct questions
  • Labeling: We judge the conversation itself
  • Attacking: We disengage from the topic and strike the person instead

Making a conversation safe

Find a purpose. Start by focusing on the purpose of the conversation, not the content:

  1. Apologize: Offer a sinceer apology if you did something wrong.
  2. Contrast: Make your purpose explicit using the don't and do technique
    1. "The last thing I want is" to fight with you, or cause trouble to our relationship
    2. "...instead I am more interested" in fixing this so we can move on together.
  3. Focus on the purpose: STOP focusing on the HOW of the conversation, instead focus on the WHY. Focusing on the HOW will only take you in a downward spiral where you will end up fighting again. Focusing on the WHY will allow both of you to relax for a second and it will free up space to come up with an elegant solution.
  4. Brainstorm Ideas: Here try to make a creative exercise in which everyone involved in the conversation can come with ways to find a solution.


  • When a topic is too sensitive, do not start speaking about it right away, but as to how you talk about critical topics
  • It's completely fine to ask someone for time to discuss something later when you are more calm

Path to Action

In a conversation, we tend to act in a certain way based on our Path to Action, which works like this:

  1. We hear something (data and facts)
  2. We tell a story (thinking fast)
  3. It evokes an emotion
  4. We act

To change your action path:

  1. Check your actions
  2. Determine which emotions evoked those actions
  3. Review the story that fired those emotions
  4. And reframe the story you tell yourself

State your path

A good way to let other understand your POV is by stating your path:

  1. State the facts, not the conclusions, speak without acussing.
  2. Tell your story as your Action Path but don't assume veracity.
    1. "In my opinion..."
    2. "I am starting to conclude..."
    3. "It seems to me"
    4. "I am not sure if that is the best approach..."
    5. "I sense that you feel attacked, is that what you are feeling?"
    6. The more fierceful you act, the more resistant they become
  3. Ask for opinion: 7. "I know people is reluctant to speak about this, but I'd really love to hear everyone's opinions" 8. "Would that aternative bother you?" 9. "I'd like to at least talk about it without taking action, would that be ok?"
  4. Step back if you need to (if you have to): 10. "Sorry, I didn't mean to jump into a heated debate, I've got out of control, can I start over?"

When someone is attacking you

  • As soon as you notice resistance (violence or silence), change the topic, put it down.
  • Listen to them by showing genuine curiosity
  • Hold your belief but soften your approach
  • Encourage testing by asking the person permission for jumping out of the conversation and focusing on the discussion
  • When someone is too dangerous to talk to, start with the most critical parts. Not all at the same time

How to listen and explore their path to action: AMPP

If you don't get to the source of the feelings you will suffer their consequences

  • A (Ask): Ask for their POV
  • M (Mirror): Mirror their feelings, state how they look
  • P (Passphrase): Passphrase them, before reaching to conclusions. Rephrase it rationally
  • If they haven't opened up yet, use Prime:
  • P (Prime): Suggest a rational explanation of what's happening with them underneath.

Speak up

  • If a person is late, and you ask them to come early, the next time they arrive late, the conversation should not be about being late, it should be about commitment
  • Show zero tolerance in front of insubordination. Allowing these kind of events once, makes them happen more often


Disrespectful Conversation

  • "I'd like to step out of this conversation and come back to it later. The way we are carrying this conversation feels unsafe. The way you are raising your voice and interrupting me seems disrespectful. I'd like to help you address your concerns, but I'll have a harder time if this continues"

Rude Comments

  • "The way you said this thing about me and then laughed sounded like you were taking pleasure out of this negative feedback, is that what's going on?"

Start a critical conversation

  • "I like when you are being friendly to each other, I'd like to have that feeling more frequently. There are a few things that I believe can help us with that, can we talk?"

Crucial Conversation Example

  • The conversation is going wrong
  • Ask yourself what you want
  • Start contrasting to express your ultimate purpose
  • Express data and facts that makes you think what you think. And end with: "Do you see it differently, I'd like to hear"
  • [The counterpart agrees reluctantly]
  • Mirror: "The way you say that sounds like the suggestion isn't ok with you"
  • [The counterpart still fights without bringing the actual purpose]
  • Prime: "Do you think I am being unfair, not acknowledging your efforts?"
  • [The counterpart presents their purpose]
  • Paraphrase: "So what you are saying is that I wasn't fair with you because I did this thing...?"
  • [You understand their story but you disagree still]. Use ABC
  • A: Express what you Agree with
  • B: Build from there up (express with more detail what you disagree)
  • Move to Action: Suggest a consensus as to what to do about it to move on

How to disagree: ABC

  • A (Agree): State what you both agree at
  • B (Build): Build from there up. Express with more detail what you disagree with
  • C (Compare): Compare both POV


  • Define clear responsibilities
  • Make people accountable
  • Deadlines
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