Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory | 2021
Posted in: Bridging Divides
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The book that revolutionized business communications has been updated for today’s communication challenges. Crucial Conversations provides powerful skills to ensure every conversation―especially difficult ones―leads to the results you want. Written in an engaging and witty style, it teaches readers how to be persuasive rather than abrasive, how to get back to productive dialogue when others blow up or clam up, and it offers powerful skills for mastering high-stakes conversations, regardless of the topic or person.

This new edition addresses issues that have arisen in recent years. You’ll learn how to:

  • Respond when someone initiates a crucial conversation with you
  • Identify and address the lag time between identifying a problem and discussing it
  • Communicate more effectively across digital mediums

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, you have three choices: Avoid a Crucial Conversation and suffer the consequences; handle the conversation poorly and suffer the consequences; or apply the lessons and strategies of Crucial Conversations and improve relationships and results.
Whether they take place at work or at home, with your coworkers or your spouse, Crucial Conversations have a profound impact on your career, your happiness, and your future. With the skills you learn in this book, you’ll never have to worry about the outcome of a Crucial Conversation again.


While not directly addressing political issues, it presents a system of practical tools for difficult conversations that are similar to techniques used in Braver Angels. The additional terminology seemed applicable and consistent with Braver Angels practices. Numerous examples are presented. I read the second edition, and the website has changed since publication in 2011. There is now a third edition.

Examples included family relationships and work relationships.
Aim for a free flow of relevant information. People who are skilled at productive discussions do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool, even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. The larger the shared pool of information, the wiser the decisions.

When communication feels safe, you can say anything. Certainly, fight and flight are motivated by the same emotion: fear. When you don’t feel safe, even well-intended comments are suspect.

Key concepts are: Return to safety as quickly as possible. Find mutual purpose. Maintain mutual respect. You may find that you have inadvertently offended someone. In this case, you might want to pause and rebuild safety by using a skill called contrasting. Contrasting is a statement that addresses other’s concerns that you don’t respect them or that you have a malicious purpose. It clarifies your real purpose and assures them of your respect.

Five important skills (using the acronym STATE) can help you get to dialogue: Share your facts. Tell your story. Ask for others’ paths. Talk tentatively. Encourage testing of your idea/opinion.