Athlos Book Club: Crucial Conversations

Top 10 Takeaways from Crucial Conversations

Conversations come in many forms, from friendly to professional, from low-risk to high-stakes, and from relaxed to tense. Every day we engage in numerous conversations, each which play important roles in shaping our expectations, relationships, and outcomes. Navigating conversations effectively takes certain skills, such as social intelligence, courage, self-control, and even humility.

Recently, the Athlos staff read Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer. This book offers tools for talking when stakes are high and led the Athos team through an engaging discussion about crucial conversations.

What exactly is a crucial conversation? According to the authors, a crucial conversation is defined as “A discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.” (p.3)

Here are the top 10 Team Athlos takeaways from Crucial Conversations.


Safety First

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, it’s important that everyone involved in the conversation feels safe. Look for signs of fear and bring the conversation back to safety.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“It’s helpful to remember to allow all participants to feel safe to express their opinions and to ensure that all involved have expressed their opinion and added necessary facts to the decision-making process.”


Let the Facts Lead

It’s important to stick to the facts during a crucial conversation. While it can be easy to confuse the stories we tell ourselves (which may not be the whole truth) and the facts, always focus on the facts to keep dialogue on track.

From the Book:
“Get back to the facts. Abandon your absolute certainty by distinguishing between hard facts and your invented story.” (p. 129)


Look Within

The key to a successful crucial conversation is having an open dialogue, and to do so you must start with yourself. While you can’t be sure you can control anyone else in the dialogue, you can control yourself.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“There is not much you can do to change others, but there is much you can do to change yourself.”


Find Mutual Purpose

When engaged in a crucial conversation, it’s necessary to find mutual purpose. This means being genuine when looking for a common goal and honestly working to achieve the shared goal instead of manipulating or leading toward a personally desired outcome.

From the Book:
“Mutual purpose means that others perceive that you’re working toward a common outcome in a conversation, that you care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa.” (p. 77)


Curiosity is Key

During crucial conversations, it’s common for people to either shut down and walk away or react with anger. In order to bring dialogue back to a safe place, it’s important to become curious. Ask questions and find out why they are feeling the way they are. Be sincere when trying to get to the source of their anger or denial.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“My favorite takeaway was ‘When people become furious, become curious.’ This adds a new dimension to our performance character trait of curiosity at Athlos.”


Watch Your Words

Words matter, what we say matters, and the way that we say it matters. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage in crucial conversations, we just have to approach them with purpose. Turning to sarcasm, humor, or negative body language instead of engaging in dialogue is not productive.Words matter, what we say matters, and the way that we say it matters. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage in crucial conversations, we just have to approach them with purpose. Turning to sarcasm, humor, or negative body language instead of engaging in dialogue is not productive.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“I have always been in the mindset that actions speak louder than words, but after reading Crucial Conversations, it really opened my eyes to how many of these conversations I have regularly and the importance of applying these strategies into the conversation.”


What You Say vs. What They Hear

There’s often a gap between what we say, what we mean, and how someone else perceives what was said. When engaging in a crucial conversation, blend confidence with humility. Be confident enough to state opinions and facts, but also be open to accept a challenge.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“A conversation can be interpreted in so many ways, so really think before you speak.”


My Way or The Highway

Crucial Conversations defines the “Fool’s Choice” as either/or choices. Those who make the “Fool’s Choice” believe they have to choose between two outcomes or behaviors — but there are always options in dialogue.

From the Book:
“Watch to see if you’re telling yourself that you must choose between peace and honesty, between winning and losing, and so on. Break free of these Fool’s Choices by searching for the and.” (p. 49)


Listen Up!

Be genuine when asking others to share their facts and their stories. As they share, Crucial Conversations says it’s important to remember the ABC’s to be a skillful listener: Ask, mirror, paraphrase, and prime.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“I think the book helped me reflect more on my conversations with my spouse, children, friends, and coworkers. It made me think about the power of words and questions, how these can help find solutions and common ground, and how these can help others feel valued in the context of a tough conversation.”


Self-Assess for Success

According to Crucial Conversations, becoming a vigilant self-monitor is important to dialogue. Make sure to frequently step out of the discussion and evaluate your own actions and reactions. Then evaluate how others are reacting to you and adjust your behavior to return to the common goal.

Hear it from Team Athlos:
“The most important thing I can do for success in crucial conversations is self-evaluation. I can only change me and my thoughts and my reactions. I can know what my end goal is, not make assumptions, and stay calm and logical.”

3 replies
  1. Robert Jones
    Robert Jones says:

    We’re starting book club tomorrow. Crucial Conversation is our first book. Your site is awesome. I reading the heck out of what you all shared from your book club on Crucial Conservations. Thanks, Robert


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