Seven Steps to Handle Crucial Conversations

I recently finished a seven week sermon series on How to Prevent and crucial conversationsOvercome RelationSLIPS. One of the messages dealt with how to have success with crucial conversations.

Today I want to share with you some of the highlights from my message. My thoughts came from my personal experiences (mostly mistakes), the Bible, and the book, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.

The book defines a crucial conversation as having three main components: high stakes, strong emotions, and differing opinions. Whenever those three ingredients combine, a little light should start flashing in your brain warning: CAUTION…proceed with care!

Strangely, the authors of the book tell us that when conversations turn crucial we are often on our worst behavior. Dang! Why is that? All those great lessons we’ve learned seem to fly out the window as we revert to our “flight or fight” reptilian brain tendencies.

Relationship Principle #7: You prevent and overcome relationSLIPS when you are able to successfully handle crucial conversations. So how do you do that?

Seven Steps to Handle Crucial Conversations

  1. Go to the person. There are some exceptions to this step, but in general, the best way to handle conflict is to speak directly to the person. Jesus said, whether you are at fault or the other person is at fault, go to them. Matthew 5:23,24, 18:15.
  2. Put the relationship first. Our big mistake in conflict is that we either want to be right or we want to punish the other person for being wrong. Or both. But if you “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” (as the apostle Paul said) you will keep yourself from doing damage. Ephesians 4:3, Romans 12:18, John 17:21
  3. Expand the pool of knowledge. This phrase came from the book, Crucial Conversations. Conflict comes from different perspectives. So rather than battling perspectives, the goal should be to “expand the pool of knowledge” by each party sharing what they know. You want to both become wiser by hearing each other out, not proving each other wrong.
  4. Make it safe. Here are a few things you can do to make the other party relax in your presence and not get defensive: (see Galatians 6:1)
  • Look for signs of fear: pleasing, punishing, pulling away. When you see theses defense mechanisms, double your efforts at being safe.
  • Be curious, not condemning. Draw the other person out with good questions.
  • Admit your faults. When the other party sees your humility, they will realize that this isn’t a witch hunt but an attempt at reconciliation.
  • Listen more than you talk. James 1:19
  1. State your case: where you agree and disagree. The other person isn’t all wrong. You can agree with this but struggle with that.
  2. Move to a decision or next step. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you’ve discussed the problem that you resolved it.
  3. Circle back to reaffirm your conversation and commitments. We often lose the “good feelings” of a reconciling discussion within a few hours as doubt creeps in. Reaffirm your discussion by contacting the person within 24 hours.

You can download the manuscript here of my message or download the audio here. The book Crucial Conversations is also helpful as is my book STUCK, if you want a fuller understanding on this topic.

There’s nothing more God-like than striving to achieve unity between two people in conflict. I hope you will “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.”