Release year: 2021

Author: Joseph Grenny et al.

Link to my handwritten notes

Here’s a book I desperately needed to read. For some time, I had been noticing a pattern in my conversations. I wasn’t getting the desired outcomes. I often felt like either I was pushing too hard, or couldn’t find the right words to accurately say what I meant. This was happening both at work and in my personal life. My emotions were often getting the best of me.

And from reading this book, I’m now convinced that I am far from the only one! 😅

What the authors of Crucial Conversations (CCs) give us is a framework to think differently about the conversations that contain the key moments that shape our lives. Landing a job (or losing it), getting married (or divorced), and so many more of the transitions that define us are often dictated by how we handle the conversations that precede them. However, not all conversations are crucial: CCs can be recognized when these three elements are present simultaneously in a conversation.

  • High Stakes
  • Strong Emotions
  • Opposing Opinions

What really blew my mind in the book is the notion of the Path to Action (PTA). Summarized in my own words:

  1. See & hear (facts)
  2. Tell a story to yourself (guess)
  3. React to the story (feel)
  4. Act on your feelings (silence, violence, …)

Between my reading sessions, I started noticing how everything I say and do is driven by the PTA. I started noticing that when I was feeling angry or hurt or stressed, it was always as a result of a mental story I was telling myself. They were never complicated stories; as the authors rightfully explain, our mental storytelling happens in a flash. “I am a failure” is a prime example of that. The “Aha!” moment came when I realized that, indeed, any story is driven by the facts I have access to. If facts are random dots on a page, the story our brain constructs is a “best guess” at the line that strings all these dots together.

By remembering that this story is a guess, we can get used to rethinking our stories by interpreting the facts differently. We can steer what kind of story we want to tell ourselves and, as a result, have a real impact on the emotions that story will make us feel. Our emotions play a huge part in influencing what we say and do at a potentially crucial moment. By telling different stories, we can break the loop of the downward spiral.

The book packs a lot more acronyms and examples. You’ll learn about The Fool’s Choice, AMPP skills, WWWF commitments, the CURE tool, STATE-ing your PTA, VVH stories… There’s a lot of theory behind the CCs framework. Luckily, I found that you can cover a lot of ground without having to remember what all of those mental tools stand for. You can easily get 80% of your desired results with 20% of the theory.

Just remember that handling CCs well is like learning how to ride a bike: you can only get good by trying, and trying again. Overall, I’m excited to see where the CC framework will lead my conversational outcomes and I am looking forward to testing it with my friends, colleagues and loved ones.

Félix Rating: 👍👍

Top 10 quotes that stuck out to me:

  1. (p. 5) You can measure the health of relationships, teams, and organizations by measuring the lag time between when problems are identified & when they are resolved.
  2. (p. 26) When people purposely withhold meaning from one another, individually smart people can do collectively stupid things.
  3. (p. 48) The more words it takes you to describe the topic, the less prepared you are to talk.
  4. (p. 65) Ask yourself, “What am I acting like I want?” to take a look at your behavior and work backwards to the motive.
  5. (p. 97) When we don’t admit to our own mistakes, we obsess about others' faults, our innocence and our powerlessness to do anything other than what we’re already doing.
  6. (p. 139) Forgive those who sin differently than yourself.
  7. (p. 173) We express confidence by sharing our facts and stories clearly. We demonstrate our humility by then asking others to share their views (and meaning it!)
  8. (p. 177) The only limit to how strongly you can express your opinion is your willingness to be equally vigorous in encouraging others to challenge it.
  9. (p. 219) If you live by the compliment, you’ll die by the criticism.
  10. (p. 238) While a conversation doesn’t necessarily need to end with a decision, it should always end with a commitment: Who does what by when? How will you follow up?