Release year: 2021

Author: Joseph Grenny et al.

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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:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 4) The determining factor between success and failure is the amount of time that passes between when the problem emerges and when those involved find a way to honestly and respectfully resolve it.
  2. (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.
  3. (p. 6) If you fail to discuss issues you have with your boss, your life partner, your neighboy, …, they (the issues) become the lends you see the other person through.
  4. (p. 14) The predictor of success or failure is whether people can hold specific, relevant Crucial Conversations.
  5. (p. 24) ⭐ The Fool’s Choice is the mistake most of us make in our Crucial Conversations, when we believe that we have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend.
  6. (p. 26) When people purposely withhold meaning from one another, individually smart people can do collectively stupid things.
  7. (p. 27) The Pool of Shared Meaning is the birthplace of synergy.
  8. (p. 41) The 3 signals that you’re talking about the wrong thing:
    • Your emotions escalate
    • You walk away skeptical
  9. (p. 43) The 3 levels of conversation (CPR):
    • Content
    • Pattern
    • Relationship
  10. (p. 48) The more words it takes you to describe the topic, the less prepared you are to talk.
  11. (p. 53) Never allow the conversation to shift or the topic to change without acknowledging you’ve done it. In all cases, you want to place a bookmark to verbally acknowledge where you’re going in the conversation and what you intend to come back to.
  12. (p. 57) Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
  13. (p. 60) The dialogue-smart believe that dialogue, no matter the circumstances, is always an option.
  14. (p. 65) Ask yourself, “What am I acting like I want?” to take a look at your behavior and work backwards to the motive.
  15. (p. 68) Ask yourself, “What do I want for myself, the other person, and the relationship?”
  16. (p. 74) How you respond to your own emotions is the best predictor of everything that matters in life. It is the very essence of emotional intelligence.
  17. (p. 75) Others don’t make you mad. You make you mad. You make you scared, annoyed, insulted, or hurt. You and only you create your emotions.
  18. (p. 79) The Path to Action is how experiences, thoughts and feelings lead to our actions:
    1. See and hear
    2. Tell a story
    3. Feel (hurt, worried, …)
    4. Act (silence, cheap shots, …)
  19. (p. 81) Until we tell different stories, we cannot break the loop.
  20. (p. 82) The downward spiral: Most often, when people defend their story, they are saying that their story is an accurate reflection of reality. But when you dig deeper, it is not uncommon to find that the story itself created the reality.
  21. (p. 84) Be careful when you argue for your story. You might be creating the reality you claim to describe.
  22. (p. 87) The first step to regaining emotional control is to challenge the illusion that what you’re feeling is the only right emotion under the circumstances.
  23. (p. 95) We sell out when we consciously act against our own sense of what’s right.
  24. (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.
  25. (p. 113) If you don’t feel safe, you can’t take any feedback.
  26. (p. 135) Mutual purpose and mutual respect are the conditions of dialogue.
  27. (p. 139) Forgive those who sin differently than yourself.
  28. (p. 168) Help others see how a reasonable, rational and decent person could end up with the story you’re carrying.
  29. (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!)
  30. (p. 173) Being open to learning is a commitment to truth over ego.
  31. (p. 174) Change this –> to that:
    • “The fact is…” –> “In my opinion…”
    • “Everyone knows…” –> “I believe…”
    • “The only way to do this…” –> “I am certain…”
    • “That’s a bad idea…” –> “I don’t think this will work…”
  32. (p. 175) One of the ironies of dialogue is that when there’s a difference of opinions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become.
  33. (p. 176) When you begin with a complete disclaimer and a tone that suggests you’re consumed with doubt, you do the message a disservice. Use language that says you’re sharing an opinion, not language that says you’re a nervous wreck.
  34. (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.
  35. (p. 190) Exploring others' paths to action is a demonstration of our good intent.
  36. (p. 219) If you live by the compliment, you’ll die by the criticism.
  37. (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?
  38. (p. 239) When it’s time to pass out assignments, “we” actually means “not me.”
  39. (p. 241) Assignments without deadlines are far better at producing guilt than stimulating action.