JJ's (July '06) Tips in this issue:
1. Crucial Conversations-Tools for talking when stakes are high!
2. Favorite Quotes
3. Tele-Coaching & Tele-Mentoring
Use the following tips as training tools.
Present this situation to your group and brainstorm solutions together, or submit
your own situation question to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.
When regular conversations at work and home escalate into important areas
that are critical, I don't do well. How can I turn these conversations in a
positive direction that will help me progress in my job and communicate well
at home too?
There are many ways to gain awareness on how to communicate better. You may
be fortunate to have a mentor who can observe your conversations and point
out how to become better at it. Ideally, having feedback from someone in
your personal as well as your business life could help you cut your learning
Ironically, a few weeks ago one of my readers and long-time business associate, Jay Michlin emailed me about a new book on communication he had
found to be very helpful.
He said, "I'd like to recommend a new book, Crucial Conversations, that you
will like both professionally and personally. It's about conversations at home and at work, between staff at a business, husband and
wife at home, children and parents and many more."
I bought the book and started reading it on my travels. He was right, it is
a great book that others should know about and it can help solve our situation question today too.
Reprinted with permission. "Crucial Skills Newsletter, VitalSmarts, L.C.,
www.vitalsmarts.com. All rights reserved."
Here's an excerpt:
When talking turns tough, do we pause, take a deep breath, announce to our
inner selves, "Uh-oh, this discussion is crucial. I'd better pay close attention" and then trot out our best behavior? Or when we're anticipating a
potentially dangerous discussion, do we step up to it rather than scamper
away? Sometimes. Sometimes we boldly step up to hot topics, monitor our behavior,
and offer up our best work. We mind our Ps and Qs. Sometimes we're just flat-out good.
And then we have the rest of our lives. These are the moments when, for whatever reason, we either anticipate a crucial conversation or are in the
middle of one and we're at our absolute worst-we yell; we withdraw; we say
things we later regret. When conversations matter the most-that is, when
conversations move from casual to crucial-we're generally on our worst behavior.
Why is that?
We're designed wrong. When conversations turn from routine to crucial, we're
often in trouble. That's because emotions don't exactly prepare us to converse
effectively. Countless generations of genetic shaping drive humans to handle
crucial conversations with flying fists and fleet feet, not intelligent persuasion and gentle attentiveness.
For instance, consider a typical crucial conversation. Someone says something
you disagree with about a topic that matters a great deal to you and the hairs on
the back of your neck stand up. The hairs you can handle. Unfortunately, your
body does more. Two tiny organs seated neatly atop your kidneys pump adrenaline into your bloodstream. You don't choose to do this.
Your adrenal glands do it, and then you have to live with it.
And that's not all. Your brain then diverts blood from activities it deems
nonessential to high-priority tasks such as hitting and running. Unfortunately, as the large muscles of the arms and legs get more blood, the
higher-level reasoning sections of your brain get less. As a result, you end
up facing challenging conversations with the same equipment available to a
We're under pressure. Let's add another factor. Crucial conversations are
frequently spontaneous. More often than not, they come out of nowhere. And
since you're caught by surprise, you're forced to conduct an extraordinarily
complex human interaction in real time-no books, no coaches, and certainly
no short breaks while a team of therapists runs to your aid and pumps you
full of nifty ideas.
What do you have to work with? The issue at hand, the other person, and a
brain that's preparing to fight or take flight. It's little wonder that we
often say and do things that make perfect sense in the moment, but later on
seem, well, stupid.
"What was I thinking?" you wonder.
The truth is, you were real-time multitasking with a brain that was working
another job. You're lucky you didn't suffer a stroke.
We're stumped. Now let's throw in one more complication. You don't know where to start. You're making this up as you go along because you haven't
often seen real-life models of effective communication skills. Let's say
that you actually planned for a tough conversation-maybe you've even mentally rehearsed. You
feel prepared, and you're as cool as a cucumber. Will you succeed? Not necessarily. You can still screw up, because practice
doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
This means that first you have to know what to practice. Sometimes you don't. After all, you may have never actually seen how a certain problem is
best handled. You may have seen what not to do-as modeled by a host of friends, colleagues, and, yes, even your parents. In fact, you may have
sworn time and again not to act the same way.
Left with no healthy models, you're now more or less stumped. So what do you
do? You do what most people do. You wing it. You piece together the words,
create a certain mood, and otherwise make up what you think will work-all
the while multiprocessing with a half-starved brain. It's little wonder that
when it matters the most, we're often at our worst behavior.
We act in self-defeating ways. In our doped-up, dumbed-down state, the strategies we choose for dealing with our crucial conversations are
perfectly designed to keep us from what we actually want. We're our own worst
enemies and we don't even realize it. Here's how this works.
Let's say that your significant other has been paying less and less attention to you. You realize he or she has a busy job, but you still would
like more time together. You drop a few hints about the issue, but your loved one doesn't handle it well. You decide not to put on added pressure,
so you clam up. Of course, since you're not all that happy with the arrangement, your displeasure now comes out through an occasional sarcastic
"Another late night, huh? Do you really need all of the money in the world?"
Unfortunately (and here's where the problem becomes self-defeating), the
more you snip and snap, the less your loved one wants to be around you. So
your significant other spends even less time with you, you become even more
upset, and the spiral continues. Your behavior is now actually creating the
very thing you didn't want in the first place. You're caught in an unhealthy, self-defeating loop.
Or consider what's happening with your roommate Terry-who wears your and
your other two roommates' clothes (without asking)-and he's proud of it. In
fact, one day while walking out the door, he glibly announced that he was
wearing something from each of your closets. You could see Taylor's pants,
Scott's shirt, and, yes, even Chris's new matching shoes-and-socks ensemble.
What of yours could he possibly be wearing? Eww!
Your response, quite naturally, has been to bad-mouth Terry behind his back.
That is until one day when he overheard you belittling him to a friend, and
you're now so embarrassed that you avoid being around him. Now when you're
out of the apartment, he wears your clothes, eats your food, and uses your
computer out of spite.
Let's try another example. You share a cubicle with a four-star slob and
you're a bit of a neat freak. In Odd Couple parlance, you're Felix and he's
Oscar. Your coworker has left you notes written in grease pencil on your
file cabinet, in catsup on the back of a french-fry bag, and in permanent
marker on your desk blotter. You, in contrast, leave him typed Post-it notes. Typed.
At first you sort of tolerated each other. Then you began to get on each
other's nerves. You started nagging him about cleaning up. He started nagging you about your nagging. Now you're beginning to react to each other.
Every time you nag, he becomes upset, and, well, let's say that he doesn't
exactly clean up. Every time he calls you an "anal-retentive nanny," you vow
not to give in to his vile and filthy ways.
What has come from all this bickering? Now you're neater than ever, and your
cubicle partner's half of the work area is about to be condemned by the health department. You're caught in a self-defeating loop. The more the two
of you push each other, the more you create the very behaviors you both despise.
Some Common Crucial Conversations
In each of these examples of unhealthy self-perpetuation, the stakes were
moderate to high, opinions varied, and emotions ran strong. Actually, to be
honest, in a couple of the examples the stakes were fairly low at first, but
with time and growing emotions, the relationship eventually turned sour and
quality of life suffered-making the risks high.
These examples, of course, are merely the tip of an enormous and ugly iceberg of problems stemming from crucial conversations that either have
been avoided or have gone wrong. Other topics that could easily lead to disaster include:
Ending a relationship:
Talking to a coworker who behaves offensively or makes suggestive comments
Asking a friend to repay a loan
Giving the boss feedback about her behavior
Approaching a boss who is breaking his own safety or quality policies
Critiquing a colleague's work
Asking a roommate to move out
Resolving custody or visitation issues with an ex-spouse
Dealing with a rebellious teen
Talking to a team member who isn't keeping commitments
Discussing problems with sexual intimacy
Confronting a loved one about a substance abuse problem
Talking to a colleague who is hoarding information or resources
Giving an unfavorable performance review
Asking in-laws to quit interfering
Talking to a coworker about a personal hygiene problem
OUR AUDACIOUS CLAIM
Let's say that either you avoid tough issues or when you do bring them up,
you're on your worst behavior. What's the big deal? How high are the stakes
anyway? Do the consequences of a fouled-up conversation extend beyond the
conversation itself? Should you worry?
Actually, the effects of conversations gone bad can be both devastating and
far reaching. Our research has shown that strong relationships, careers,
organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power-the
ability to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics.
So here's the audacious claim. Master your crucial conversations and you'll
kick-start your career, strengthen your relationships, and improve your health.
As you and others master high-stakes discussions, you'll also vitalize your organization and your community.
Kick-Start Your Career
Could the ability to master crucial conversations help your career? Absolutely. Twenty-five years of research with twenty thousand people and
hundreds of organizations has taught us that individuals who are the most
influential-who can get things done, and at the same time build on relationships-are those who master their crucial conversations.
For instance, high performers know how to stand up to the boss without committing career suicide. We've all seen people hurt their careers over
tough issues. You may have done it yourself. Fed up with a lengthy and unhealthy
pattern of behavior, you finally speak out-but a bit too abruptly. Oops. Or maybe an issue becomes so hot that as your peers twitch and fidget
themselves into a quivering mass of potential stroke victims, you decide to
say something. It's not a pretty discussion-but somebody has to have the
guts to keep the boss from doing something stupid. (Gulp.)
As it turns out, you don't have to choose between being honest and being
effective. You don't have to choose between candor and your career. People
who routinely hold crucial conversations and hold them well are able to express controversial and even risky opinions in a way that gets heard.
Their bosses, peers, and direct reports listen without becoming defensive or
What about your career? Are there crucial conversations that you're not holding or not holding well? Is this undermining your influence? And more
importantly, would your career take a step forward if you could improve how
you're dealing with these conversations?
For Crucial Skills Newsletter:
For Crucial skills Archives:
JJ's FAVORITE QUOTES:
"When something goes wrong, we have a choice. We can find fault or we can
find a solution. Instead of figuring out who is to blame, itıs more helpful
to ask, how can we communicate more clearly to prevent this from happening
- Sam Horn
"Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, itıs to fix the course for
- John F. Kennedy
"I'm not a Pollyanna thinker, but I am a positive thinker. That makes you
able to dismiss tragedies and failures and try again."
- Art Linkletter
Tele-COACHING & Tele-MENTORING
TRY our one-on-one Tele-Mentoring (phone coaching service) that is available
to business owners, executives, managers, supervisors and staff members.
Call for your FREE CONSULTATION now!
DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE in an area? Sales or Service?
* Dealing with irate internal or external customers?
* Motivation and growth of your people?
* Leading and Coaching your staff?
EVALUATION OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT:
Have you had an Evaluation of Your Environment lately so you could receive
suggestions on improving it? (It's like the doctor's check up, you
often don't know you need it, until after you've had it.)
JJ Lauderbaugh, CMC
408 445-1590 or 800 500-9656
1716 Husted Ave.
San Jose, CA 95124.
JJ works with companies that want to give exceptional customer service to
increase sales, and with Directors and Call Center/Help Desk Managers who
want to improve human performance.
She's an international speaker, trainer, facilitator and certified management
consultant (CMC) on customer service management, specializing in
performance improvement, call centers, up/cross selling and outbound calling.
For training resources, free articles, tips and streaming video, go to our
web site at
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İ JJ Lauderbaugh, CMC, Lauderbaugh & Associates, Inc., 2006. Reprinted
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