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Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

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Learn how to keep your cool and get the results you want when emotions flare.

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, you have three choices: Avoid a crucial conversation and suffer the consequences; handle the conversation badly and suffer the consequences; or read Crucial Conversations and discover how to communicate best when it matters most. Crucial Conversations gives you the tools you need to step up to life's most difficult and important conversations, say what's on your mind, and achieve the positive resolutions you want. You'll learn how to:

Prepare for high-impact situations with a six-minute mastery technique
Make it safe to talk about almost anything
Be persuasive, not abrasive
Keep listening when others blow up or clam up
Turn crucial conversations into the action and results you want

240 pages, Paperback

First published July 9, 2002

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About the author

Stephen R. Covey

404 books5,551 followers
Stephen Richards Covey was the author of the best-selling book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". Other books he wrote include "First Things First", "Principle-Centered Leadership", and "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families". In 2004, Covey released "The 8th Habit". In 2008, Covey released "The Leader In Me—How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time". He was also a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. You can purchase Stephen R. Covey's books and audios at http://www.7habitsstore.com

Covey died at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on July 16, 2012, due to complications from a bicycle accident he suffered the previous April.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,750 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,504 reviews7,563 followers
July 2, 2014
Dear Goodreads:

A 'crucial conversation' is one that
1) opinions vary
2) stakes are high
3) parties involved have strong emotions.

Sound familiar? What we have at Goodreads is a Crucial Conversation.

Ways you don't succeed in a crucial conversation:

1) Allowing your emotion to dictate your dialogue. Specifically, an emotional need to "win" or be "right."
2) Believe the answer is the "fool's choice" of a yes/no, right/left solution.

Ringing any bells? I can't state what the emotions of GR staff are right now, but they can't be positive ones. And we've all witnessed how official 'my way or the highway' belief in a new, unbroadcast Terms of Service is resulting in a notable downtick in GR activity.

The authors of Crucial Conversations did a lot of studies discovering that people who are skilled at dialoguing during crucial conversations:

1) start with the heart, otherwise known as the self, by knowing what they want
2) they avoid the 'fool's choice' of the either/or solution and look for the 'and'
3) they are smart enough to clarify and know what they don't want
4) they ask their brain to try and solve the harder problem--which means the 'and' one, not the gut response one
5) they note what their behavior says, so that their body language/actions are in congruence with their words, thus lending believability to their words

My Dear, dear Goodreads Customer Service, try this.

I suggest you take these principles to heart. Know what you want. Do you want to 'win?' Do you want certain people to leave the site? Do you want a book-selling synergistic Kindle machine? Do you want to keep the hard-working librarians and reviewers who built this site material active and involved? Once you've asked these questions, you then need to ask if your body language and interactions are reflecting these goals.

The authors state to set up a crucial conversation, the parties involved need to make it safe. What do you do when the conversation isn't going well and a party is acting defensively? You make it safe by:

1) Step out of the conversation
2) Determine what condition of safety is at risk? A mutual purpose or mutual respect?
3) Apologize if it is appropriate
4) Using contrasting skills to help fix misunderstandings, such as "I didn't intend to mean ___," then explain what you did intend/meant.
5) Create a mutual purpose

This is how you can fix the exodus of mass numbers of librarians, reviewers, and most importantly, readers who are leaving your site.

The crucial part of this list is, of course, the conversation.

Note: I will add a genuine analytical review at another site when I finish. It really is an excellent book that I recommend to everyone. There's a few ethical and social limitations to it, but it does help have a high-stakes conversation and succeed.
Profile Image for Nancy.
534 reviews10 followers
March 27, 2012
Ok, I read this because the boss suggested it. He suggested it because I don't deal well with overly emotional, crying, touchy feely people. I'm more of a "get the hell over it" kind of girl.

The book is a jumbled up mess in the writing. It bounces from one example to the next, explains half a concept, jumps to another example, explains another part of a concept, and the might (or might not) get back to the original example. My guess is because it seems to have no less than 75 authors. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

The conversation techniques are ones that everyone older than 10 should know anyway. Shut up, let the other person talk, repeat what they said, then respectfully make your point. If you can't do that, you shouldn't be in any kind of position of authority anyway.

It was 250 pages of skipping around, stating basic civilized talking techniques. And no, I still don't want you sit and boo-hoo on my shoulder. Crying about things, especially at work, is just a waste of time, energy, and resources. Suck it up, Buttercup!
18 reviews8 followers
August 15, 2007
I teach this course and have found the skills and insights that people experience can be life-changing. This book will help you in your personal and professional relationships. Crucial Conversations is not about being confrontational, avoiding conflict, or getting your way. Its about how to help yourself and others stay in dialogue so you can get the results you want. Its about learning, finding the truth, and strengthening relationships.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,686 followers
December 28, 2018
Self-help books can be a tough sell. Crucial Conversations was given to everyone where I work as required reading. When given required self-help reading you may immediately make assumptions:

• This is going to be cheesy
• I don’t have any issues, so I won’t need this
• This book will just waste my time
• Etc., etc., etc.

However, I can confidently say that Crucial Conversations will help direct the reader toward successful and meaningful conversations at both work and in your daily life.
Do you frequently find yourself in arguments? Are you frustrated that it seems like people are not listening to you? Are you a leader but you feel like you get no respect from your direct reports? This book will give you some great tips on how to approach any conversation, even if the situation seems hopeless. I have already started to try and use the tips I learned in this book (even to reply to commenters on Goodreads!)

You don’t really need to sit down and read this book cover to cover to get some great tips. Picking it up and just skimming the bullet points will help even the best conversationalist improve. Also, if you encounter this book in a work setting, your employer may also provide a day long accompanying course to help with the material.

Crucial Conversations is not a self-help book to scoff at. Some of the situations used may be a bit cheesy, but it will not waste your time and you may find you need it more than you think!
Author 3 books6 followers
June 12, 2007
This book has valuable information, but the reader has to dig for it. I'm not impressed with the editing job; I think the editor could have helped bring more clarity to the discussion. They come up with a lot of jargon that you have to remember throughout the book ("Start with Heart," "Clever Stories," etc) and keeping track of their key words and phrases makes the learning process more difficult.

That said, I believe there are useful tools in the book (some exercises are similar to Cognitive-Behavioral therapy), and I think it is worth the read and worth the effort to extract and organize the useful bits of information. This should have been much more tightly edited.
Profile Image for WhatIReallyRead.
662 reviews488 followers
June 4, 2018

- the book had some pretty good advice, really not much I could have argued with
- it was indeed quite specific, and described real conversational tools, as stated in the title
- it had lots of examples
- it's pretty short and easy to read

So in a sense, I recommend it.


1) too much self-promo. Five times or so throughout the book they mentioned some super-exclusive very interesting content that's available at this link. Of course, I went there to check it out. Surprise, surprise, I had to fill out a giant form with my work email, corporation, my position in it etc. to receive that content. Also, that page advertised corporate training of the author's methods. I mean, how come people who wrote a book about COMMUNICATION don't know any better than to use aggressive and annoying marketing practicesin their own work? Can't they see how off-putting it is? How it discredits everything else they say? I live in freaking Ukraine, I'm not going to buy your corporate training, so leave me alone!!!

They also had these "real-life examples from readers" sections which were 90% "oh Crucial conversations is awesome!! It helped me a lot!! Everything was bad and now it's good! And their corporate training is great too!!" And absolutely nothing helpful or specific, just praise.

2) repetitiveness. The authors made sure to drive their points home. Not a bad thing, but I think this short book could have been half its size.

3) too much set-up: a prologue, preface, foreword, introduction, and afterword by each of the authors? Too much if you ask me! Just get to your point!

4) nothing new. Though as I've said before I couldn't argue with their advice, I also didn't learn anything new and was bored at times. It all boiled down to this:

- don't be a passive-aggressive jerk
- don't be an aggressive jerk
- don't ignore the elephant in the room
- don't assume the purpose of everyone else's existence is to serve you

I mean, sure.

So in a way, I don't recommend this book.
Profile Image for Matt.
Author 1 book65 followers
May 7, 2012
It seems like every business book nowadays has a foreword by Stephen R. Covey. It’s almost like – if he didn’t endorse it - it’s not worth reading.

This book is not an easy read like Leadership and Self-Deception, Who Moved My Cheese, or The Myth of Multitasking. It is however worth reading because it has many gems and pearls of wisdom along the way.

A few of them I already knew:
Remember, to know and not do is really not to know. – p. xvi
“He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.” – Samuel Butler p. 23

A few startled me as I read them because I realized they are problems I have but never noticed:
Do you hold in ugly opinions only to have them tumble out as sarcastic remarks or cheap shots? – p. 13
Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dismiss them under a general stereotype or category. – p. 53

By employing a handy label, we are now dealing not with a complex human being, but with a bonehead. – p. 108

Some were very humorous:

Individually smart people can do collectively stupid things. – p. 22

If others would only change then we’d all live happily ever after. – p. 29

Some felt like ancient proverbs that had been modernized:

“Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I.” – p. 72

Respect is like air. If you take it away, it’s all people can think about. The instant people perceive disrespect in a conversation, the interaction in no longer about the original purpose – it is now about defending dignity. – p. 71

When you feel a measure of respect for the other person, you’re ready to begin. – p. 195
You and only you create your emotions. – p. 94

And of course – there are the rest of the quotes I loved that don’t fit in a prior category:

Most people have trouble pulling themselves away from the tractor beam of the argument at hand. –p. 55

When you tell a “Victim Story” you ignore the role you played in the problem…you speak of nothing but your noble motives. – p. 107

We cite information that supports our ideas while hiding or discrediting anything that doesn’t. – p. 138

Our honest passion kills the argument rather than supports it. – p. 139

Back off your harsh and conclusive language, not your belief. – p. 140

Don’t pretend to consult – p. 168

When you find yourself saying “All right, we’ll never agree so let’s vote” you’re copping out. – p. 171

Nothing is quite so annoying as having someone agree on a choice (their second choice perhaps) and then cry “I told you so!” when it doesn’t work out. – 173

People often assume that trust is something you have or don’t have…Trust doesn’t have to be universally offered. In truth, it’s usually offered in degrees and is very topic specific. – p. 200
Profile Image for Sharon Orlopp.
Author 1 book276 followers
November 28, 2022
This is a classic, crucial leadership book that I re-read due to the importance of skilled dialogue when the stakes are high and emotions are strong.

The book mentions that oftentimes during challenging conversations we move to silence or violence. Oftentimes we "salute and stay mute."

There are great tips for learning to handle crucial conversations skillfully, including:
1. Find a way to get all relevant information out in the open
2. Determine what you want and don't want from the conversation
3. Create conditions of safety
4. Search ahead of time for creative solutions
5. State the facts while striking a blend between humility and confidence
6. Ask for others' opinions/suggestions
7. Stay curious
8. Be patient
9. Describe what you see calmly

Strongly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Angela.
259 reviews10 followers
November 9, 2012
Probably the most influential book I've read in the past five years. The concepts have probably been around for a long time, but this was my first exposure to them. I'm still learning how to do the things mentioned here, but it really has helped me shift the way I think about others. The authors have a web site with a lot of great stuff in it, and their monthly-ish newsletter is one I actually read!

NOTE: I haven't actually re-read it since I first got it, so this is a review of impact and content, not of writing style.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
June 25, 2018
A very insightful book that breaks down all the guiding points to a productive conversation even when emotions are high. Communication and emotional intelligence are skills that everyone can always improve upon, and this book has encouraged me to think more deeply about the way I express myself and how I can do better.
Profile Image for Sheherazahde.
312 reviews20 followers
August 9, 2013
I love this book! It changed my life and I recommend it to everyone.

One of the major problems that has plagued me all my life was becoming too emotional when things were important to me. This book has helped me recognize that I was getting upset and helped me deal with my emotions so I could come back to the conversations from a calmer place.

The book is written in simple language with lots of repetition and stories to make it easy to read and understand. The authors also use a lot of acronyms to help people remember what to do. Some of the reviews have complained about this. I have no complaints on this issue. The book is intended to accessible to low level readers. There are some areas where I don't feel they were simplistic or clear enough. I made myself flash cards of the basic principles to use during group discussion to keep myself on track.

I didn't find chapters #9 or #11 very helpful. I expected more practical advice on "moving to action" and "putting it all together". But just looking at the table of contents reminds me off all the skills and tools I need to keep a productive discussion from becoming a heated argument.

I wish they had an even more simplistic version of this book intended for teenagers. These are the sorts of emotion regulating skills teenagers could really benefit from.

I buy copies of this book to give to my friends. I know that giving other people a self-help book is rarely helpful but I just hope if there are enough copies of this book floating around out there more people will read it and become better at discussing instead of fighting or withdrawing. The more information in the pool of shared knowledge the better!
Profile Image for Daniel Silvert.
Author 4 books20 followers
July 13, 2011
Crucial Conversations tackles one of the most difficult subjects in human relationships: How to navigate difficult conversations when 1) the stakes are high 2)opinions are at opposite ends, and 3) when emotions are charged. This book is so filled with insights and strategies, I had to read it twice and nearly use up two highlighters. At it’s core, the authors recommend asking yourself three critical questions before engaging in a difficult conversation:

What do I want for myself?
What do I want for others?
What do I want for the relationship?

From here the authors offer a number of tools for navigating the rough seas of emotional volatility that often derails important discussions or prevents them from taking place at all. CRIB:
1. Committing to seek a mutual purpose
2. Recognizing the purpose behind the strategy
3. Invent a mutual purpose
4. Brainstorm new strategies
Once the conditions have been established for a crucial conversation: Use STATE to approach sensitive subjects.
1. Share your facts
2. Tell your story
3. As for others’ paths
4. Talk tentatively
5. Encourage testing

But Crucial Conversations goes way beyond acronyms and strategies. At it’s core, the book dives deep into the human condition under duress. Each of the strategies listed put richly in the context of why people react and protect the way they do. This gives each strategy a depth of understanding that is uncommon in what is otherwise presented as a business book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,447 reviews63 followers
May 24, 2017
I started writing a long review that went into great detail about why I found this book a waste of paper. I’m shocked that this book sold two dozen copies, let along two million.

Then I remembered a comment one of the author’s made in their acknowledgements section and decided that much more succinctly summed up this book’s many problems: namely, how many people came up to him and told him they own this book but have never read it.

That right there tells you how this book became a bestseller – because it’s the sort of book that gets recommended at management conferences and by HR departments (which, if true, is awful because the authors’ attitudes towards workplace harassment are problematic), and people are either told to or forced to buy it.

I would like to think that, if more people took the time to read Crucial Conversations, it would not be a bestseller.

Maybe these guys give great seminars. Totally possible. But this book is a skip. Frankly, I learned more about navigating tough conversations when I was given a one-day training session for managing a big corporate coffee shop.

For those looking for a book on this subject, let me recommend Thanks for the Feedback. While it tackles a slightly different subject, I found its advice and suggestions regarding interpersonal relations much more useful. NOT recommended.
December 28, 2009
Two years ago I joined a large firm as a software developer to develop a business application. I was very excited as the opportunities were enormous and the growth potential was literally sky high. But the excitement did not last long. For, within a month of my work there, my manager kept making a series of decisions that were, well, simply unpalatable to me! These decisions frustrated me tremednously and what's
worse - these disagreements seemed to be the norm rather than an exception. I, quietly in my heart, disagreed to every one of the decisions he made. In the team meetings, I would raise my concerns as softly as possible taking every precaution not to say anything that would make him angry. He would dismiss - ruthlessly and heartlessly, as it seemed to me at that time, - my opinions and would enforce his own opinions as team's decisions. The team members were not as directly
affected by the decisions as me, and I alone felt like a victim.

I raged and fumed internally. All I could think of was what a villain my boss was! How could he force his decisions down my throat like that! How could he be so brutal!

I lacked courage to bring up the issues again after the decisions were made and have been communicated publicly. So, the only options available were to quit the job or to accept the decisions.

My entire body revolted against the decisions when I thought of them. That's how strongly I felt against those decisions! However, I cannot quit the job given my situation at the time. So, I stayed with the job, never accepted the decisions and fought against them silently.

I began to hate my work since I worked on something that was against my core values. So, naturally, going to work stopped
being fun.

From then on, for every decision we had to make, I did not contribute my thoughts or opinions. I let my manager decide and silently resented the decisions.

What is wrong in this story?

Was my boss really a villain?

Was I really a victim?

My boss was not a villain. I was not perfect either. The fact is that we messed up our "crucial" conversations.

A conversation becomes a crucial conversation when opinions vary, when emotions run high and when the stakes are high.

It is in our best interests to we carry on with a crucial conversation using our best capabilities since the stakes are high but unfortunately we behave our worst and ruin the outcome.

We behave our worst when the conversations turn crucial - we turn violent and attack people or grow silent and sulk.

So, how to take control of a crucial conversation?

Read the book "Crucial Conversations" by Kerry Patterson, et al.

Crucial conversations happen everywhere - at work, in our personal lives, at our community meetings, etc., etc. The outcomes from these conversations impact our lives - more or less. So, we should be ready.

It is one of the best self-help books I have ever read. It is simply an eye-opener! You should/must/have to read it! :-)

Let me know if you liked the book!
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,395 followers
February 7, 2015
This book has all the ingredients one needs to improve one's interactions when one is stuck in cycles of rage or disagreement. It has remarkably similar prescriptions to other readings I have done on the subject on how to manage in a tense conversation in which one must come to some reasonable agreement. If everyone read a book like this once or twice in their lifetimes we might actually move the evolution ball down the court in a significant way. I wonder if in fact our politicians have had a look. They seem determined to regress.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
8 reviews
February 21, 2016
I wasn't highly impressed with this book, I certainly don't recommend reading it via an e-reader. Perhaps it would have been more digestable and useful if I had purchased a physical copy of the book.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,320 reviews456 followers
July 10, 2021
The content could be useful for many people, especially if they've never learned anything before about communication. It's common sense about listening.
However, I think it doesn't really live up to the bit about "when stakes are high." For example, when it gets to sexual harassment in the workplace it uses an anecdote about a man who puts his hand on coworkers' chairs and this makes a woman uncomfortable and so she tells him and he stops. That's great, but the book suggests that if it's more serious harassment, then it's probably good to go report it to HR instead of confronting the harasser. And that's also great advice, but it's an illustration of how this methodology doesn't work for the highest stakes, because those often involve dealing with unreasonable people who don't respond to these techniques. So I think a more accurate title for this book would be "Awkward conversations: Tools for talking to reasonable people about things that matter to you."
If you can't avoid talking to unreasonable people, then for the next level up of difficult conversations, I prefer:
Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life Talking to Crazy How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston
And for understanding when to avoid trying: The Sociopath Next Door
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
Profile Image for Vance.
143 reviews656 followers
April 2, 2020
How do you deal with conflict? I tend to avoid it. That’s just how I’ve been wired for a long time.

Avoidance isn’t inherently bad, as it can give me time to work out problems or calm down before saying something out of place, but it can be exhausting, as I’ll mull things over without trying to solve the problem.

This once got me in trouble with substance abuse because I was trying to avoid reality. Now that I can identify the avoidant part of my personality, I can start trying to make it work better for me.

Part of learning about it to help deal with it is reading books. The latest book was Crucial Conversations.

The authors do a great job of explaining their position and providing examples. My take from their work is that during conflict I must identify my emotions so I can understand how to best deal with an issue in a crucial conversation. While it seems elementary, it has been life changing for me in a short period.

Much of this book ties in with a recent book I read called Radical Candor. I recommend both, but I would suggest reading Crucial Conversation first.

I give it 5 stars, and hope to continue to learn from the many lessons in this book.

Profile Image for Shahine Ardeshir.
169 reviews
February 19, 2012
Very rarely have I come across so sensible, articulate and powerful a book, particularly from the “Business/Self Help” genre.

The premise of this book is simple: Each of us, in all relationships in and outside of work that we conduct, face situations in which there is considerable gravitas attached to the outcome. Often, we behave less than we’re capable of in these circumstances, to unpleasant result. These are critical conversations, and there’s a certain skill to conducting them well.

The timing of my reading ‘Critical Conversations’ could not have been more apt. In the recent past, I’ve had conversations at work, at home with my partner and over the phone with my best friend that have not gone the way I would have liked. And reading this book resulted in a lot of deep reflection on understanding why that happened, and examination of what I could have done better.

A few misnomers need to be addressed here.
- No, this is not a soppy “Oh, you should always try harder” kind of book. It’s not one bit mushy - every point made ties into practical, measurable application in the real world.
- Nor is it one strictly applicable to corporate business executives or the work context per se. It has equal applicability to how you're communicating with a family member, a neighbour or a friend.
- It is the outcome of rigorous grounded research, over many years, leading to some broad conclusions on why these situations tend to occur, and how you personally and as a member of the larger group or relationship, can respond more productively. It's not the opinion of the authors, it's grounded in fact.

The best part about this read is that the language is simple, the tone is honest without being patronizing or commandeering, and the basic content makes a hell of a lot of a sense. I would go as far as to suggest that ANYONE who’s reading this review should go out and buy a copy, today. Who among us doesn’t have relationships, either professional or personal? And who among us is a master communicator, always able to obtain the best results possible out of a conversation? Maybe this book won’t solve your problems, but it’ll lend some much-needed perspective, trust me.

In sum: One of the singularly best books I have read in recent times, without a doubt.
Profile Image for Ying Ying.
270 reviews109 followers
March 15, 2019
This is a book that offers tools to help you get what you want in crucial moments of your life. The authors aimed not at writing about communications, but at helping you achieve goals in key interactions.

I liked that the book is easily digestible. Each chapter can be read in about 10-15 minutes, with summaries at the end. The concluding chapter wraps up all concepts very nicely with a table that summarizes all the principles, skills and questions to ask that were introduced throughout the book. Snippets of real life conversations illustrate how to apply these tools (e.g. STATE my path, ABCs).

On the other hand, tools are not magic bullets. In the afterword of the enhanced edition, Ron (one of the authors) shares that while these tools might not guarantee that each of your conversations turn out successful, with time, the persistent application of such well-founded principles can increase your chances of getting what you want.

While the techniques discussed are nothing from the other world, the book is a quick read that equips you with tools that might be useful at some point in your life. As such, I recommend this book to anyone interested in self-improvement and soft skills.
17 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2010
I had to read this for work and it was a total waste of time. The skills presented are all common sense. For all of their concepts they come up with mnemonics to help you remember. However, there are so many of them you can't keep straight which one is for what and what the letters actually mean. Finally, the examples were forced and completely unrealistic. Real people don't talk or act like their examples. The one I loved the most was the wife who thought her husband was cheating on her because of a charge to a motel on their credit card. Because of these techniques they were able to determine that the motel was owned by the same person that owns a Chinese restaurant and their marriage was saved. What!?!

Don't bother reading this if you can avoid it.
Profile Image for Ilse Niemeyer.
7 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2015
I found the writing pretentious and annoying. The advice is sound, but the authors spend so much time telling you how great the book is and throwing strange code names for things that don't need code names at you (ie "sell outs"...what?) that the message loses its potency.
Profile Image for Elyse.
6 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2018
I think that the premise of this book is important, but (for me) there were enough shortcomings in its execution and organization that I felt moved to write my first Goodreads review. I will just outline a few:

1) It feels like the authors shot too far when trying to create easily-digestible material and landed with an awkwardly patronizing tone throughout the book. I can understand the justification behind defining coined terms like 'crucial conversation,' but the accompanied pronunciation (kroo shel kan vur sa shen) was gimmicky at best, and it happened multiple times. The worst offender might have been the completely unnecessary definition of the word dialogue. You aren't creating anything new there, you're just over-explaining at that point.

2) In the preface, the authors are "excited about...summaries of important new research." The entire book has 5 cited sources, and 60% of those sources are cited in the first chapter. Anecdotes can be incredibly powerful and valuable, but I feel like the authors missed an opportunity to cement some of their ideas more methodically.
9 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2010
One of the amazing books I have read in recent times. Unlike many books, this book pinpoints the exact mistakes and reasons people make in high-stress conversations. Considering that many meetings these days are high-stress (time-pressures, market-pressures, customer complaints and so on), this book is a game-changer.

What makes this book wonderful is that tells you to change your Inner Game to be able to practice it. The tools the authors propose are not "fake-smile" type add-ons, but require a fundamental understanding of how emotions are inseparable from our behavior.

Another excellent book that I completed recently, "Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate" by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro, also speaks a lot about managing your emotions during negotiations. But this book is, somehow, more personal and touches you deeper.

I am getting copies of this book to give away to my friends and close colleagues - that should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Kathrine Holyoak.
243 reviews
April 28, 2020
Pulled apart, each element could be classified as simple common sense. But when it comes to tough conversations, most of us botch them like idiots. My sister had been proselyting this book to me like a newfound religion. I wasn't in the mood until I bumped up against a "crucial" need that only a constructive "conversation" could mend. I'm the newest convert. I couldn't guzzle the blue kool-aid fast enough. Relationships are everything to me; but I am profoundly imperfect at them. The methods (and examples) of this book helped me identify, address and ultimately mend an extremely important one of mine. I'll undoubtedly bumble another friendship soon, but luckily I now own the book. I have a goal of reading it regularly as preventative maintenance.
Profile Image for Sepideh R.
30 reviews25 followers
August 2, 2017
pretty smooth, not so long, useful, and practical.
Here are some lines that I enjoyed:

- "It is an amazing but true thing that practically the only people who ever say mean, insulting, wounding things to us are those of our own households. "

- "Others don't make you mad, you make you mad. you make you scared, annoyed or insulted. You and only you create your emotions. "

- "It's important to get in touch with your feelings, and to do so, you may want to expand your emotional vocabulary."

- " When it comes to regaining your trust, don't set the bar too high. Just try to trust them in the moment, not across all issues."
Profile Image for Britany.
941 reviews415 followers
July 4, 2015
Good concepts, but content ended up coming across pretty dull. I found myself setting this down and not wanting to pick it back up again. I'm beginning to think that I actually do not enjoy "self help" books. Just feel like watered down textbooks that I feel like could be summed up in a MUCH shorter essay!

Get to the point already!
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews301 followers
November 12, 2013
Simply awesome and life changing, goes straight to my top 5 all time favorites! I wish I had read this book years ago.
Profile Image for Antoinette Perez.
466 reviews8 followers
September 6, 2014
I don't know if I can write a purely objective review, as though my brain were wiped clean of everything I know about conversations. The book that caught my eyes and my heart was Fierce Conversations, and both Fierce and Crucial cover the territory of conversations. But they do so quite differently, and which book helps each person more is first probably a matter of taste.

Crucial is written in a very familiar business non-fiction style: two shades more friendly than an academic textbook, but still largely impersonal. The extensive bullet point lists of steps, stages, and phases, with a number of acronyms in between (STATE, AMPP, ABC, etc.) lend to the feeling that conversations get dissected, analyzed, and planned, from start to finish. So it's puzzling that after all this content, which I frankly found difficult and cumbersome to wade through, the authors admit (this being a 10-th anniversary edition) that most people don't read the whole book and simply get value from the re-framing of conversations that the authors challenge us to do in the first few pages. They admit that it is difficult, if not impossible, to remember all the steps they teach us in the heat of a crucial conversation, and that two points above all will help guide us when real life, outside the book, happens.


The style conundrum sorted itself out for me when I realized that this book has not one, not two, but FOUR authors -- and you don't hear a single human voice until the Afterword, when each of the authors gets to write a first-person account of lessons learned since the first publication. Then you get some humor, some poignancy, some authenticity -- all things that I was missing and sorely needed during the other 200 or so pages of the book.

After the style issue, I did have some content concerns and questions. Does the term "crucial conversations" and its ensuing explanations suggest that there are only some conversations (the implication is "hopefully only a few dreaded crucial conversations") that deserve our best, most purposeful efforts? I wouldn't say that every single conversation I have with every single person, every day, requires me to show up in full -- but you can bet that I see improvement in my quality of life when I am present and real in as many conversations as possible with those who are important to me.

There's also a step in Crucial Conversations in which the initiator is instructed to speak tentatively so as to create more safety for the other person, i.e. "I could be wrong, but..." If I really don't feel like I could be wrong, it feels disingenuine to say this. The authors address this by saying, essentially, well, you could be wrong so that isn't untrue. Then, the authors come back later to clarify that there is a difference between coming across weak and creating safety for the other person in the conversation. This is probably a sticky point in general, and I think I understand the approach -- I just don't agree with it. It does nothing to model authenticity in the conversation when we aren't being true to ourselves. I do believe we can broach difficult conversations with grace, tact, respect, compassion, and love, but that aspect of Crucial Conversations doesn't click for me.

Above all, I prefer the underlying message in Fierce that being real and authentic in our conversations should be an everyday practice, not limited to special occasions or extenuating circumstances.
Profile Image for Farnoosh Brock.
Author 16 books219 followers
December 11, 2016
Truly one of the most practical and brilliant business books, and this from someone who loathes the average "New York Times best-selling business book!". This book offers deep insights into the human psyche around relationships and interactions, communications and relating to one another and the world of things that can go wrong - that does go wrong - on a daily basis. It applies to your relationship with your boss, business colleagues, partner, spouse, co-worker, friends, and your entire ecosystem. If you want something, you need to be able to communicate it. If you don't want something, you must be able to say it and every interaction has consequences. Do you want to keep the relationship? Do you want to be liked, trusted, loved, adored and still firm in your views? Or do you want to stay in the constant prison of power struggle, victim mindset, false stories and breakdown of communication with roller coaster of emotions?

I've already started using the tools in Crucial Conversations with my spouse. Right now, I'm happy to say that my relationship is in a very good place, but as I read the book, I reflected on years of misunderstandings and jumping to conclusions and seeing where I would often take the doomed route to nowhere, rather than the safe and smart path to a place of mutual understanding, trust and love. So I've started applying these principles and teaching my husband how to look for signs and how to communicate to me when he feels unsafe or unhappy in a conversation, or as the authors put it, when "dialogue" stops, because when you step out of dialogue, all breaks down, so the goal is to stay in dialogue when stakes are high, when emotions are strong.

Another great tool you learn in this book is to state the mutual purpose and draw from that to bring yourself and the other person to the same side. As you begin the process, you can create safety and trust by doing this very early on.

If you believe that communication is at the heart of getting things done, building relationships, creating an impact, as I do, then this is one of the BEST books on communication when stakes are high, and if you are able to have a powerful crucial conversation, if you can train yourself to do this with the help of the amazing techniques in this book, then you have a rare gift that helps you in all areas of life.

I've started recommending this book and even sending it to my clients, and teaching the principles in my coaching sessions. It is even worth a re-read. Highly recommended.
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