Crucial conversations

Crucial Conversations

Every day we interact with people. At work, at home, in the gym or with our kids. Not always aware that we are having a crucial conversation. How do others react to your answers? How does the person you communicate with perceive your message and, what does he or she do with it? Do we answer from emotion or apply the right amount of rationality? Do we listen to understand or to react? Is our audience engaged?

In this blog we explain the impact of conversation techniques. How do you identify your conversation turning crucial and subsequently achieve momentum when communicating? Read the 6 tips below to gain some insight.

1. Listen to understand

We tend to interact with others sharing opinions and insights. In any conversation, building understanding and common grounds is important to set the basis for interaction, respect and trust. Let’s take a job application, for example.


Question?: Sell me the pen? In general, this question is used to see what selling techniques the applicant demonstrates.

When asked this question, people don’t focus on why this question is asked. Very little people ask the right questions to identify how selling this pen resolves the client’s pain. Even more important, why does this person ask me to sell the pen? Building the right strategy requires you to start by building report. Understand what value the pen brings, before actually offering the service or product. Listen to understand means reacting to a question is fine, but understanding why the question was been asked, is even better. When you understand, your approach to answering the question is different.

2. Don’t make assumptions

During a crucial conversation, it’s vital that you summarise what you understood before answering. Assumptions make an ass of you and me (Project management description). Make sure when you receive information, you tally back and validate if you understood correctly, before answering. It requires, as mentioned in point 1, active listening!


Remark : You are a potato. Does this mean your conversation partner thinks you are an idiot? Or is there another reasoning behind this? When perceived negative by you, investigate before reacting.

Your response: Thanks for noticing. Could you elaborate what you mean with Potato in this context? Make sure the intentions are clear to you before responding!. It may be nothing, it may be the world. The person you speak to may not be aware of the impact of the remarks made.

3. Break the conversation down in smaller blocks

Break down the information you received in smaller bullet points. Subsequently answer the bullets one by one, constantly confirming if you’re still on the same page. Use validation questions to make sure you understand the objectives. If your answer is not in line with expectation or perceived as such, you’ll resolve them easier using smaller points. Avoid making assumptions, and build report during the conversation.

4. Avoid discussions, create a dialogue

There is no right or wrong. If you are in the conversation just to win, it will lead to negative discussions. You both loose in the long term. Keep the conversation going and open up for feedback. By gathering feedback about the why, you will gain understanding of the person in front of you. Build momentum towards a dialogue between all parties, finding solutions and building up to the team approach. There is no need to be right. You are not right if the others don´t confirm understanding. Some discussions must of course be dealt with… But in general open conversations, and dialogue work towards trust.

5. Observe!

Body language, repeated communication, elevated voices, sweaty hands, and the occasional eye swirl. Non verbal communication is a form of communication, that shares a lot of information. Do not get concerned about it, tackle it. There are many examples of someone not being onboard of a concept. It’s important you build trust and listen carefully. Take points of concern into account and act on it. Do not push that person away or neglect the signal. If it’s not appropriate to tackle this conversation in public, find a time to have it and make sure this feedback is part of the decision. People do not always have to agree to the points, but the more they do, the better your progress.

6. Time and location!

For every conversation there is a right time, place, and audience. Not all conversations have to take place publicly. Make sure you build report with all the people involved.

Individually, en groupe, in the office or just go for a walk. Timing and location are important, as some things will not reach the table, if you don’t create a good environment for them.

Not a tip, but really important; When you know you are about to have a crucial conversation… Prepare, prepare, prepare. Get your facts straight, and make sure you are prepared to de-escalate. People want to be heard. Perspectives are there to be shared, so open up for feedback. Furthermore, be honest and true. This does not mean you have to share everything you know. Honesty is about being clear on your intentions. Even if the conversation has a negative impact.

Book tip!

A good conversation can turn bad in one second. This book helps you tackle these situations; by adapting the way you communicate, build trust and momentum.

One of the books I personally love is Crucial conversations by McGraw-Hill, initially published in 2002 and re-launched in 2012. The book is a few years old, but still very valuable. Read it. It will help you overcome the crucial conversation you are preparing for.

We are here to help. Our coaches and consultants have vast experience in supporting executives in times of transformation. Get in touch with us to see how we can support you.

About the author

Business coach, Program Lead, Interim CXO, COO, CIO, CSO, from strategic design to physical delivery! Passionate about growing people and a firm believer that the journey is just as important as the ultimate goal. By empowering team members we create the entrepreneurs of the future!

Recognised (see recommendations) by former clients, team members and partners as the go-to person when it comes to his track record in delivering purpose and meaning in transformations! Rahim is the power behind Duchain & Associates, a network of Growth Consultants! Completed over 50 successful programs over the past 20 years at a success rate of 98%, Impressive!

Pioneer in the area of transformational consulting, leadership and organisational development, topped up with in-exhaustive energy, creativity and passion make him one of the most desirable transformational leads working in today’s market!

Rahim is based in Barcelona (Spain)! His work area extends to EMEA and US with past engagements covering most continents!

A fun fact. Rahim is a wannabe DJ (a source of creativity), a devoted husband and father (The caring part) and Dogwalker (he calls this sports). Connect and grow with us!

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