Crucial conversations are defined as discussions between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary and emotions run strong. These are day-to-day occurrences that affect everyone’s lives. Hence difference of opinions, high stakes and strong emotions are three basic ingredients that make any conversation/discussion crucial.
Here we describe these elements:
- Difference of opinions:
In our everyday conversations we mostly argue on things because there is difference in opinions such as I believe one thing and you other, we are on two extremes of agreement or disagreement. Let suppose you are talking with your mother to stay out late at night but she thinks it’s not right.
- High stakes:
Second important thing in crucial conversation is ‘risk’. Any type of discussion which involves high stakes or risks has capacity to hit the red zone of crucial conversation. For instance parents are talking about the career of their son and he is not doing well at college so they decided to change the college. Hence they are selecting a suitable college for him.
- Emotions run strong:
Third, emotions are very significant at every situation in which humans are interacting to each other. Situations are classically conditioned with our emotions. Whenever we talk about those specific situations we feel that associated emotion and react accordingly. Similarly when we are talking about general things and during that conversation, when we bring those ugly or emotionally associated incidents back to conversation, make it crucial.
How do we typically handle crucial conversations?
- We can avoid them.
- We can face them and handle them poorly.
- We can face them and handle them well.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to back away from discussions when we fear that consequences will hurt us or make thing worse. So we are master at avoiding these tough conversations.
Furthermore we have some worst behaviors that set grounds to crucial conversations. These are personal factors that significantly influence our response when we confront tough discussions. These are given below:
- We’re designed wrongly: when conversations turn routine to crucial, we’re often in trouble. Because emotions don’t help us to converse effectively, but our body prepare us for primitive action: our basic or extinct based reactions. This extinct drives us to handle crucial conversations with flying away or fighting, not intelligent persuasions and gentle attentiveness.
For example: consider a typical crucial conversation. Someone says something you disagree with that matter a great deal to you. Now your adrenal glands pump adrenaline to blood stream that make you aroused to choose either fight or flight as a response to crucial conversation. At this stage our hot brain ‘amygdala’ helps us a lot to effectively utilize flight or fight mechanism. We don’t choose to do this but our adrenal glands do it for us and we have to live with it.
- We’re under-pressure: Here we add another important factor. Crucial conversations are frequently spontaneous in nature. It can happen anywhere and makes us surprise. So we are forced to conduct extraordinarily complex human interactions with real time without any guidance, coaching, and books. In fact, we have to perform multitasking but we are not pretty good at it and we resort fight or flight mechanism to face tough conversations. Multitasking involves the issue at hand, the other person and the brain that’s preparing us for fight or flight.
- We’re stumped: here we add one more complication or our limitation. Basically we don’t know where to start when we are at the middle of crucial conversation. We don’t have real life models of effective communication skills. Even though we are well prepared, rehearsed and feel as cool as cucumber still we plunge in to the darkness of confusion, we lack a perfect practice that will make you perfect to handle tough conversations.
- We act in self defeating ways: In our unstable state, we often choose a strategy that keeps us away from what you want to fix because our chosen strategy isn’t compatible to fix problems. Hence we are our worst enemy and we don’t even realize it. For instance, your significant other is paying less attention to you. You realize he/she has a busy job, but you still would like more time together. You drop few hints regarding the issue but your loved one doesn’t handle it well.
That thing makes you unhappy and your displeasure now explodes in sarcastic remarks. Unfortunately here’s where the problem becomes self defeating, the more you snip and snap, the less your loved wants to be around you. You become even more upset and the spiral continues downward. Your behavior is now actually creating the very thing you didn’t want in the first place. Now you are caught in an unhealthy, self defeating loop.
When stakes are high, opinions vary and emotions run strongly then casual conversations turn to crucial conversations. We are at our worst behaviors and the consequences are either avoiding or fouling up crucial conversations can be severe. A failed conversation can affect every aspect of our lives.