Crucial Conversations

Sometimes we do not feel our conversations we have with students are meaningful. We know that as educators we have the potential to create lasting impacts on our students’ lives in positive ways. When there are opposing opinions, the stakes are high, and emotions are strong, our discussions have become Crucial Conversations (Patterson et al., 2012).   Recognizing this and moving forward with great care is already one step in the right direction.  By acknowledging it as a vital conversation, we can then speak to the heart, stay focused on the outcome we want and remember we can only control ourselves.  By taking these small steps, we can move forward to reach our mutual purpose and goals. 

Crucial Conversations Strategies:

Start with Heart

First and foremost, I will take the time and required steps to work on mastering my own emotions. After that I can focus on what I see for our change initiative and the desire behind that change. I want all students to have the opportunity to enhance their learning with the use of ePortfolios so that they can increase reflection skills, build confidence, and gain a deeper understanding of academic content.

Learn to Look

To me, recognizing when a conversation has turned crucial is one of the most important steps. When there are opposing opinions, the stakes are high, and emotions are strong, we have entered a Crucial Conversation (Patterson et al., 2012).  During meeting discussion and collaboration activities, I will need to have a constant read of the room to monitor emotions and look for signs that others are uncomfortable, such as masking, avoiding, withdrawing, controlling, labeling, or attacking.

Explore Others’ Paths

Time and effort does not equal perfection. I have put hours of thought and effort into my initiative and it is not perfect. There will always be a different way that someone recommends. Making those suggestions feel heard and considered should be a goal. To encourage others to share their views, I will use the listening tool AMPP:

  • Ask.  Start by seeking others’ views and input.
  • Mirror to Confirm Feelings. Increase safety in the conversation by acknowledging the emotions others appear to be feeling.
  • Paraphrase to Acknowledge their Story. Then, as others start to share their story and views, restate what you’ve heard to show understanding, and it is safe for them to continue.
  • Prime When You’re Getting Nowhere. If others continue to hold back, prime them by taking your best guess at what they may be thinking and feeling.

(Patterson et al., 2012)

Make it safe

No one will share thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions if they do not feel their voice is safe in a meeting or discussion. Establishing our why and reiterating our mutual purpose will help keep those front and center. If I notice participants are uncomfortable, I must bring focus back to the reason we are here. Everyone must believe in our goals and purpose for any good to come. By reestablishing everyone’s motive toward our mutual purpose, we can move forward in our discussions and proceed to our action.

Master My Stories

I have a tendency to lose track and move on to other topics of concern while in discussion. For good dialogue to take place, I need to take control over myself and my train of thoughts. Investing the time that I have in our plan put me at risk for having abrupt and negative reactions to thoughts and ideas against the plan. Taking the time to master my story means it won’t control me. By keeping the facts in mind, remembering what I want, and acting to reach those results, I will become a master of my story.

STATE your Path

I will use the STATE acronym to keep the dialogue going.

  • S= Share your facts first- don’t start with your story.
  • T = Tell your story.  Explain what you are starting to conclude.
  • A= Ask for others facts.  Encourage others to share their truths and their stories.
  • T= Talk tentatively.  Use language to show you are sharing your opinions to share your story as a story.
  • E = Encourage testing.  Encourage others to share differing opinions and opposing views.

(Patterson et al., 2012)

Explore Others’ Paths

Even though I have put a great deal of effort into my change initiative, it is not perfect, and there will always be different ways to approach things. Therefore, I need to look at other perspectives and make them heard even if they are emotional or silent. To encourage others to share their views, I will use the listening tool AMPP:

  • Ask.  Start by seeking others’ views and input.
  • Mirror to Confirm Feelings. Increase safety in the conversation by acknowledging the emotions others appear to be feeling.
  • Paraphrase to Acknowledge their Story. Then, as others start to share their story and views, restate what you’ve heard to show understanding, and it is safe for them to continue.
  • Prime When You’re Getting Nowhere. If others continue to hold back, prime them by taking your best guess at what they may be thinking and feeling.

(Patterson et al., 2012)

Move to Action

Crucial conversations have been had. Dialogue has the framework to continue, and the meaning has been added to. Action is what awaits. Having clear expectations about all decisions made and the way they will be acted upon is necessary. Following that we will utilize the accountability structure within 4X to propel us forward.

Implementing anything new is a challenge. Change is hard, and sustaining that change can be even more challenging.  We must expect and recognize that there will be tough conversations that follow. However, we will be successful when we acknowledge that a discussion can become crucial and following the steps to help us reach our common goal.

People are sometimes scare and anxious to try something new. Empathizing with the feelings that people may have will allow them to feel heard, safe and supported. When a colleague becomes withdrawn, sarcastic, or harsh, they are most likely worried about implementing something unfamiliar.  Working on recognizing these reactions and feelings will help build respect during our discussions and allow us to continue working towards our goal.

These Crucial Conversations Strategies are not a fix all or even a one and done strategy. It’s a strategy that is intertwined and ongoing.

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations tools for talking whestakes are high, Second Edition (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.