Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

At the suggestion of one of our participating physicians, I am going to focus the next few emails on crucial conversations.   A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. Physicians have many crucial conversations-in clinic, conference rooms, hospital hallways, and their homes.  How we handle the crucial conversations of our lives makes a big difference in our effectiveness and happiness. 

The book Crucial Conversations represents findings based on 25 years of research with over 20,000 people.  The model has seven steps:  1) Start with the heart (i.e empathy and positive intent); 2) Stay in dialogue; 3) Make it safe; 4) Don’t get hooked by emotion (or hook them); 5) Agree a mutual purpose; 6) Separate facts from story; and 7) Agree a clear action plan.  

“Starting with the heart,” means beginning with positive intent and good will for the other person.  While we can’t control how another will respond, we can control our own attitude as we enter into a conversation. Three basic questions to ask us are 1) What do I really want for myself; 2) What do I really want for others, and 3) What do I really want for the relationship. 

Respect for the other person is important, but sometimes a challenge. About this, the authors say, “Often feelings of disrespect come from focusing on what’s different from us. To build a level of respect we need to instead focus on areas that they are similar to us on. We all have weaknesses and it’s a case of accepting that their weakness is no weaker than our own.”  

Buy the book here.


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