Let’s define 2 terms, related to Crucial Conversations:
* Content – the topic of the conversation / under discussion / message
* Conditions – what people are doing in response (how people are feeling and acting, what tone they were taking)
Watch for conditions
So what do you look for when caught in the middle of a crucial conversation? What do you need to see in order to catch problems before they become too severe? Actually, it helps to watch for three different conditions:
1️⃣ – the moment the conversation turns crucial
2️⃣ – signs that people don’t feel safe (silence or violence)
3️⃣ – and your own Style Under Stress
Silence and Violence
As people begin to feel unsafe, they start down one of two unhealthy paths. They move either to silence (withholding meaning from the pool) or to violence (trying to force meaning in the pool). That part we know. But let’s add a little more detail. Just as a little knowledge of what to look for, can turn blurry water into a brown trout, knowing a few of the common forms of silence and violence helps you see safety problems when they start to happen. That way you can step out, restore safety, return to dialogue – before the damage is too great.
Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning. Methods range from playing verbal games to avoiding a person entirely. The three most common forms of silence are masking, avoiding, and withdrawing.
- Masking consists of understanding or selectively showing our true opinions. Sarcasm, sugarcoating and couching are some of the more popular forms.
- Avoiding involves steering completely away from sensitive subjects. We talk, but without addressing the real issues.
- Withdrawing means pulling out of a conversation altogether. We either exit the conversation or exit the room.
Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool. Methods range from name-calling and monologuing to making threats. The three most common forms are controlling, labeling, and attacking.
- Controlling consists of coercing others to your way of thinking. It’s done through either forcing your views on others or dominating the conversation. Methods include cutting others off, overstating your facts, speaking in absolutes, changing subjects, or using directive questions to control the conversation.
- Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dismiss them under a general stereotype or category.
- Attacking speaks for itself. You’ve moved from winning the argument to making the person suffer. Tactics include belittling and threatening.
As safety is violated, watch for various forms of silence and violence.
A person’s Style Under Stress represent how one typically behaves during stressful or crucial conversations (silence or violence). The Style Under Stress does not represent an inalterable character trait or a genetic propensity. In fact people who practice Crucial Conversation skills change their Style Under Stress.