Kerrying On

Kerrying On: Taking Control of Our Stories

Somewhere in deepest rural America, a man driving along a dark, lonely stretch of country road blew his right front tire. After pulling over and scrambling out of his BMW, he walked to the trunk, opened it, and noted with disgust that his jack was missing.

After ten minutes of nothing but frog and cricket noises, our traveler concluded that he was on his own. It was then that he noticed that off to the west, across a long stretch of open ground, was a lone farmhouse. It was late, but there was a light on in the front window and surely the farmer had a jack.

After squeezing through a break in a barbed-wire fence and nearly tearing his silk suit coat, the fellow started his trek across the field. “People in this part of the country need to pull together just to survive the elements,” he imagined. “The farmer will be glad to lend me a hand.” Finish reading

Crucial Conversations QA

When Cultures Clash

During the month of July, we publish “best of” content. The following article was first published on August 3, 2005.

Dear Crucial Skills,

Our city has been struggling with a diversity initiative, and we’ve been going through the Crucial Conversations Training to help address issues that keep our employees from working together because of cultural misunderstandings.

It’s been interesting to see people’s reactions to the terms “silence” and “violence” used in the training. It seems to be a matter of interpretation. For example, several people from different ethnic backgrounds say that being expressive and emotional is part of their cultural communication style–and yet people from other cultural backgrounds see this strong way of advocating as “violence” in crucial conversations language.

How do you address these differences in the way people define “silence” and “violence” when conversations are happening between people of different cultures?

Culture Clash

Dear Culture Clash,

You raise a very important question—and one we’ve thought a great deal about since we’ve worked with these skills literally everywhere from Israeli software companies and Kenyan slums to Malaysian factories and Wall Street investment banks. Here is our considered response.

Your twin responsibilities in a crucial conversation are Finish Reading

Trainer QA

What if the other person refuses to open up?

When trying to commit to seek mutual purpose, what if the other person refuses to open up and share his or her meaning to find and/or create a mutual purpose?

It can be difficult when the other person seems to be holding back what it is they really want. There are a couple of things you might keep in mind when dealing with this situation.

Sometimes the refusal to open up is a sign others are not feeling safe Finish Reading

Crucial Accountability QA

The Silent Spouse

During the month of July, we publish “best of” content. The following article was first published on February 2, 2005.

Dear Crucial Skills,
Whenever my husband and I get into a conversation that he doesn’t want to continue, he will resort to a comment like, “You always have to have things your way,” and will refuse to continue the conversation. This approach leaves issues unresolved and interferes with other areas of our life. How can I get around this?

Dear Unresolved,
When we teach Crucial Conversations Training and ask for the kinds of challenges people face, this issue comes up in several ways. Some talk about being married to a mime. Others comment that their spouse seems Finish Reading

Private Members Only
Kerrying On

You Don’t Belong!

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Preston Coventry, one of the more popular kids in the ninth grade, had invited me to the grand opening of his neighborhood association’s swimming pool. When the appointed day arrived, I hiked across town to the posh facility where I was greeted by a tall fence and a stern guard. After I waited a couple of minutes, Preston approached the gate, gave a quick nod, the guard pushed a button, and I was granted entrance.

Preston and I spent the entire day playing water games and chasing girls with squirt guns. It was perfectly wonderful. I had no idea that such a life even existed. But then my thoughts turned to the long walk home, so I changed clothes and headed toward the exit. As the gate shut behind me, I turned around. Then I grabbed two of the metal bars, stuck my head between them, and smiled at Preston. (I was lobbying for an invitation to return.) Preston glanced back at me and abruptly stated, “You can’t come back.” Finish Reading

Crucial Application

How to Confront the Workplace Bully

According to our study of 2,283 people, 96 percent of respondents say
they have experienced workplace bullying. Eighty-nine percent
of those bullies have been at it for more than a year; 54 percent for more than five years. In some cases, the survey found, bullies have continued in the same job for 30-plus years.

Bullying can’t persist unless there is a complete breakdown in all four systems of
accountability—personal accountability (the victim himself or herself), peer (others who
witness the behavior), supervisory accountability (hierarchical leaders), and formal discipline (HR)—according to our research. It was surprising to see that in many
organizations, not just one, but all four of these systems were terribly weak. As a result, the person most likely to remain in his or her job was the bully. Equally surprising was the
widespread effect of bullying. It was rare that the alleged bully picked on a single target. In fact, 80 percent of respondents said the bully affected five or more people.

So, how do you stop a bully? The study showed that the most effective deterrent is the skillful verbal intervention of the person being targeted. Next most effective is informal peer accountability. While in high-accountability organizations all four must be strong—personal, peer, boss and formal discipline—the study showed that the first breakdown is in personal accountability. When individuals and peers who experience or see bullying say nothing, the bully gets emboldened. And the more who join in the silence, the more evidence the bully has that the behavior is sustainable.

Here are five tips for how to confront your workplace bully.

1. Reverse your thinking. Most of us suffer in silence because all we consider are the risks of speaking up. Those who speak up and hold others accountable tend to do the opposite. They think first about the risks of NOT speaking up. Changing the order of the risk assessment makes you much more likely to take action.

2. Facts first. Present your information, as if talking to a jury. Stick with the detailed facts. Be specific. Strip out any judgmental or provocative language.

3. Validate concerns. Often the bullying behavior was triggered by some legitimate concern. Be sure to validate that need while demonstrating an unwillingness to tolerate the way it was handled.

4. Share natural consequences. Let them know the consequences of behavior—to you, others, customers, projects, etc.

5. Hold boundaries. Let them know how you expect to be treated in the future. Ask for their commitment. And let them know what your next step will be if there is a

View the results of our study in the infographic below or click here to download a copy.


Crucial Conversations QA

Keeping a Work Friendship Alive

Dear Crucial Skills,

My department is in the midst of reorganization. While I am trying to remain positive, the change I am having the most difficulty with is my friend and coworker becoming my manager. We had an open and honest conversation about how we don’t want this to affect our friendship, but I can already see the dynamics of our relationship changing. I realize she has obligations as a manager, but how can I embrace her promotion as well as handle my emotions through this change?


Dear Concerned,

Thanks for asking an important question. Working with people who are close friends can be an important source of joy and satisfaction. However, it can also Finish Reading