By Ryan Cich

Crucial ConverationsThroughout our professional and personal lives, we often find ourselves in positions where effective communications are critical to the successful outcomes we are trying to achieve. When stakes are high, emotions are strong, and opinions vary greatly; individuals tend to exhibit a natural fight or flight reaction and behavior. Getting honest with ourselves and others, and holding meaningful dialogue during these emotionally charged scenarios is of utmost importance to ensure that the participants do not wander off into avoidance or verbally attack each others thoughts, ideas, or feelings.

As a parent to three high energy, passionate, young children I have found myself in this situation more times than I desire. Remaining calm and fostering a safe and open environment for communications is critical to holding successful conversations with 6 and 8 year olds. Children have an amazing ability to lose their filter, lose their cool, and lose their minds in a short amount of time. Validating their emotions, helping them focus on the issue(s) rather than the emotion, and reinforcing a focus on the behavior or actions that need to be taken has been tremendously helpful in improving both communication and behavior.

In the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler take an in-depth look at how to handle disagreements and high-stakes communications. After 25 years of studying successful communicators, the team identified principles and easy to learn skill sets that allow individuals to face these situations with nearly anyone, regardless of their power, position, or authority.

Honesty PrinciplesThose that are practicing the principles are becoming more honest with themselves and those with whom they surround themselves. It is this honesty, paired with tactful and open communications that is allowing relationships to bear greater fruit, generate meaningful actions, and drive improved results. Within SolutionWorx, we are applying these principles, to be more effective with our personal and professional relationships both inside and outside of our organization.

Kevin Sparger, our Vice President of Technical Services, began utilizing the crucial conversations philosophy last year and has noted an immediate impact on his ability to hold key conversations. Although admittedly a work in progress, Kevin stated, “the Law of Crucial Conversations has helped provide me a framework for having difficult conversations. I would have a hard time approaching these talks without some degree of emotion coming into play, mostly from anxiety and a fear of hurting the relationship. I go over the law before any important conversation to provide me the ground to plant my feet on so I’m less anxious, and usually at the end of one of these conversations I feel like we’ve come out with a mutual understanding of where we need to go.”

Vital Smarts, a corporate training and organizational performance organization, co-founded by the authors of Crucial Conversations has a tremendous amount of resources available on their website to explore various focus areas of their principles. I personally have found their self-assessments valuable in identifying areas where I could use improvement. To see how well you fare in holding crucial conversations, keeping individuals accountable, influencing others, and/or fostering change, visit the Tools + Assessments in the Resource Center of Vital Smarts by clicking here. We hope that these and other principles and ideas that we share help you and your organization continue to advance and excel.