Latish Sehgal's Blog

Book Notes: Crucial Conversations

Read On: May 2015
Reading Time: 6 hours
Rating: 6/10


Crucial Conversations revolutionized the way millions of people communicate when stakes are high. This book gives you the tools to prepare for high-stakes situations, transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue, make it safe to talk about almost anything and be persuasive, not abrasive.


  • Crucial Conversation: When opposing opinions, strong emotions and high stakes are involved. We often back away from them because we fear we will make things worse.
  • Be honest, but also be respectful.
  • People who are skilled at dialogue make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool.
  • When people aren’t involved in the discussion, they’re rarely committed to the final decision.
  • It is much easier to change/improve ourselves than the other person.
  • When angry or agitated, asking questions about what we really want serves 2 purposes:
    • Reminds us of the goal.
    • Juices up our brain in a way that helps us stay focused.
  • By watching for the moment a conversation starts turning unhealthy, you can respond quickly. The sooner you notice you’re not in dialogue, the easier it is to get back and lower the costs.
  • Meditation will help in spotting Crucial Conversations.
  • People are more open to feedback when they feel safe. When people are silent or violent, it’s usually because they’re feeling unsafe. Don’t respond in kind, but try to keep the environment safe.
  • 3 most common kinds of Silence
    • Masking: understating true opinions.
    • Avoiding: Steering away from sensitive subjects.
    • Withdrawing: Pulling out of conversation.
  • 3 kinds of Violence
    • Controlling: Forcing your views on others.
    • Labeling: Putting a label on people or ideas, so that we can dismiss them under a stereotype/category.
    • Attacking: Making the people suffer.
  • The first condition of safety is Mutual Purpose. Others should perceive that you are working towards a common outcome in the conversation and that you care about their interests.
  • You should not enter a Crucial Conversation if you do not have a mutual purpose. You cannot stay in the Crucial Conversation if you don’t have mutual respect.
  • Things to try when Mutual Respect or Purpose is at Risk:
    • Apologize when appropriate.
    • Contrast to Fix Understanding. Helps in clarifying genuine goals. When people misunderstand and start arguing over the misunderstanding, stop. Use contrasting. Explain what you don’t mean until you’ve restored safety.
  • 4 skills to create a Mutual Purpose
    • Commit to seek Mutual Purpose. You have to agree to agree.
    • Recognize the Purpose behind the Strategy.
    • Invent a Mutual Purpose.
    • Brainstorm new strategies.
  • You and only you create your emotions, not others. Once you’ve created them, you have only 2 options: You can act on them, or be acted on by them. Either master them or fall hostage to them.
  • When an unhelpful story is driving you to silence or violence, stop and consider how others would see your actions.
  • Instead of telling clever stories which are incomplete and make you look great, tell the whole story.
  • 5 steps to talk about sensitive topics:
    • Share your facts (and not opinions/stories).
    • Tell your story.
    • Ask for other’s Paths.
    • Talk tentatively.
    • Encourage Testing.
  • Be patient when exploring how others think and feel. Strong emotions take a while to subside.
  • To encourage others to share their path:
    • Ask to get things rolling.
    • Mirror to confirm feelings.
    • Paraphrase to acknowledge the story.
    • Prime when you’re getting nowhere.
  • 4 common ways of Decision Making:
    • Command: Decision made by external people or factors.
    • Consult: Decision maker invites others to influence them before they make their choices.
    • Vote
    • Consensus: You talk until everybody agrees to one decision.
  • When making assignments, make sure you decide
    • Who?
    • Does What?
    • By When?
    • How will you follow up?
  • Document the details of conclusions, decisions and assignments.


I read this with my work colleagues, and thought it was an ok read.

P.S I have moved all my Book Notes to Read My Book Notes.