Career With A Purpose 13.0: Handling Pivotal Conversations, Part II

Handling Pivotal Conversations, Part II

Career With A Purpose 13.0


In the last article, we discussed how casual discussions can sometimes turn into pivotal conversations, and we sought wisdom on navigating such discussions so that the resulting impact would be positive.

Looking for answers to this very question, management consultants Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson surveyed men and women who were aware of having participated in a failed conversation. They found people continually mentioned three reasons that conversations went awry:

  • Inability to control emotions and emotional comments
  • Inattentiveness to the psychological needs of the other person (i.e. failure to respect the other person’s dignity)
  • Loss of focus on real goals (i.e. getting defensive, making vengeful comments, or withdrawing from the conversation due to fear)

On the other hand, those reporting a better outcome for crucial conversations pointed to several things that happened:

  • At least one person in the conversation repeatedly reaffirmed his respect for the other person and his desire for a win/win outcome for both people
  • At least one person kept the best possible outcome for the conversation in the forefront of his mind to keep from getting off track
  • One or both people sorted through the various distractions the conversation brought up and worked to maintain focus on the central area of concern

    As a result of teaching these skills to corporate teams, Grenny and Patterson report:

    “We’ve seen patient’s lives saved as hospitals taught nurses and doctors to surface critical issues. We have seen manufacturing productivity increase as teams have learned to work more candidly and respectfully through disappointments and frustrations. We’ve seen customer retention soar at financial service firms, as wealth managers began to address sensitive client issues more quickly and candidly.” (Crucial Conversations)

    Of course life is busy, we don’t always think of what needs to be said at the right moment, and there are no perfect interactions. However, having some tools to apply when a conversation suddenly turns pivotal can help us strengthen our relationships, be more productive, and keep doors of future opportunity open.

    Often just a few moments of interaction can have a disproportionate impact, so it’s worth developing the habits of speaking with respect, looking for the best possible outcome, and staying focused on the main area of concern. They can enhance the health of our teams and our capacity to achieve what we really want.