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The authors define a Crucial Conversation as a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run high. Examples frequently involve money, relationships, job performance, politics, parenting, health, chores, religion, etc. And how do we typically handle crucial conversations?

We can avoid them, we can face them and handle them poorly, or we can face them and handle them well. But, all too often, we do not handle them well.

The authors contend that at the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information, which they term, simply enough, as effective dialogue. But effective dialogue is often not achieved because our opinions vary, we have different motivations and objectives, and we have varied experiences and emotions.

So to help us have effective dialogue, in spite of these differences, we need to:

– begin with the right motives;

– focus on what we really want (and don’t want) to get out of this crucial conversation;

– refuse to be limited to these two ugly options: 1) attacking someone in the name of honesty or 2) withholding the truth in the name of being kind;

–  learn to notice when someone is no longer feeling comfortable, and help get them back to a place of “safety”, so they can talk about almost anything; and

– maintain mutual trust and respect.

This book is mainly about resolving conflicts and influencing people, and covers almost every conceivable aspect of talking with others. People speak more openly and freely when they’re not attacked or overpowered — in other words, when they feel safe.

Keep this in mind and employ the above components of effective dialogue and you can achieve a better outcome and be more successful in your crucial conversations.