“Never walk away from another touchy, controversial, or complex issue, – at work or at home!”
Crucial Confrontations, Back Cover
Have you had a situation where you were disappointed with someone else, perhaps with a boss, co-worker, spouse or child? How did you handle it? Addressing these situations is difficult since they are often emotionally charged and there is risk of damaging a relationship.
Crucial Confrontations provides a framework and the tools that guide you through how to approach these disappointing situations. These disappointments could be failed promises, missed expectations or any other disappointing behaviour.
Throughout the book, simple models are presented to provide a foundation to work from when preparing for a confrontation.
Use A Process
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Dealing with people who disappoint you in a constructive manner is a structured, repeatable process. It is something you can learn and practice. If you are willing to invest the time, effort (and courage!) you can become world class at addressing broken promises and missed expectations.
The process is supported by models that provide roadmaps to navigate thinking on dealing with a crucial confrontation.
An example of a model to address a recurring problem is described by the acronym CPR. The first time a problem comes up, talk about the Content of what just happened. The next time the problem occurs, talk about the Pattern of what has been happening over time. Finally, if all else fails, talk about Relationship, or what’s happening between you and the other person. Using this model, you will have a guide to deciding what to confront.
Help Others Want to Take Action
“Motivation, it turns out, is actually rather boring. It has little to do with clout, chutzpah, or even charisma. In fact, motivation is about expectations, information and communication.”
Crucial Confrontations, page 118
People have to motivate themselves. Force and even rewards don’t work well for routine behavior. As outlined in the book, “when they are applied to routine behavior, extrinsic rewards confuse purpose. Special rewards should be reserved for special performance” (pg. 125). The best way you can help motivate someone is to help them explore natural consequences. You can do a “consequence search”, that is, explain natural consequences until you hit upon one or more that the other person cares about. This helps others identify consequences they aren’t seeing on their own. Six methods for doing a consequence search are:
- Link to existing values – how can you connect to the person’s core values?
- Show how short-term enjoyment can be linked with long-term problems.
- Place the focus on long-term benefits.
- Introduce the hidden victims, that is, describe the unintended and invisible effects an action is having on others.
- Describe how the person’s action is being viewed by others.
- Talk about existing rewards.
Keep searching for consequences until you find one the person values, then stop when you reach critical mass (when there are enough consequences to motivate action).
When Things Go Right
“Praise more than you think you should and then double it.”
Crucial Confrontations, Appendix C
One of the most significant ideas in the book was one I actually found in the appendix. Praise is a way to make deposits in an Emotional Bank Account, so that when it is time to talk about a failed promise, broken commitment or disappointing behaviour there is a reserve of respect to draw upon. Acknowledging someone doing something right is often a lot tougher than slowing down when things go wrong. This appendix was a great reminder for me to always be on the lookout for catching someone doing something right, thanking them, praising them and doing it in a fashion that has real impact.
There are three areas suggested in this section to get better at praise. Commitment is required to make praise a priority. Make the time to provide praise and gratitude. A change in standards may be required. Instead of only rewarding momentous achievements, look for – and praise – small wins. Be spontaneous. Finally, find yourself simple cues as reminders for praise such as allocating time on a calendar, or including it in your weekly (or daily) to do list.
If you are sometimes a reserved person, like I am, the intensity of the gratitude you feel inside may not naturally show on the outside. Consciously making a point of ensuring those internal feelings are expressed to the other person will build a strong bond with that person, which is an asset in times of difficulty.
A colleague of mine once said, “A relationship is ONLY as strong as the most difficult confrontation that it has ever survived.” Consciously applying the concepts and tools in this book maximizes the chance that your relationship will survive difficult confrontations.
Time and time again I’ve read that it is the difficult conversations – these crucial confrontations – that lead to richer relationships and to a deeper level of trust. To me, effectively addressing problems but also enriching relationships seems a worthy result for investing time in the book and having the courage to apply the concepts.
“Motivation isn’t something you do to someone. People already want to do things. They’re motivated by the consequences they anticipate” (page 143).