TALK IS CHEAP! In this continuing series on Crucial Conversations, CEO and founder, Jerry Houston, makes the point that Talking is NOT COMMUNICATING. Communication requires an honest, two-way interaction that is based on understanding the message. Enjoy this week’s Power Idea!

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the final class of our Virtual Management Development Program with one of our favorite clients, Faller Davis and Associates in Tampa, Florida. The class focused on the book, Crucial Conversations (by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler). Our facilitator, Laura Dillingham, lead the group in a discussion of what it really means to communicate, especially when the conversation is a difficult one. For example, when we are involved in issues such as challenges in the workplace between people, relationship challenges outside of work, or difficulties that happen out in the world that require an appropriate resolution if there is to be a strong and respectful relationship.

The fear of fight or flight creates a great deal of difficulty for people whether they are introverted or extroverted. We all either over-react or under-react at times, and this has a bearing on the long-term well-being of everyone involved in these transactions. Human behavior is really interesting. We often times choose a road that does not serve us well, and we need to be honest about our emotions when we are in difficult communications.

How do we get better at crucial conversations? Perfect practice makes perfect. Owning the fact that we don’t always confront appropriately, we can forgive ourselves and spend our time constructively, analyzing why communications get off track and how we can get overcome those obstacles and have more successful communications. Avoidance never works. Problems in conversation and communications compound and get more difficult when we pretend that they will somehow disappear if we ignore them. We all know that this is not going to happen and dealing effectively with the crucial situation is always preferred.

Another key point made in the crucial conversation class was it takes courage to say what must be said, even if it impacts friendships at times. People will appreciate your courage and most of us really want the truth, because the truth allows us to deal with reality and move to a better place. The concept is called Shared Meaning and it occurs when there are honesty and understanding in the dialogue. Humans seem to have an innate need to win, to be right. In the end, you need to be right with yourself, and then you can be right with others. People have a need to feel safe when they speak up, and you can take the responsibility to create a safe environment. It’s that idea of “I’m OK and You’re OK” which leads to a more honest dialogue.

The only person you can control is yourself, so be sure you are coming from a correct place and that you are not being sarcastic, negative and so on. The payoff is that you will get more positive contributions from others and the resolution to the challenge at hand is much more likely to occur.

During the conversation in the class, everyone agreed that understanding these concepts is easy, compared to applying these ideas when you are in the situation. Laura talked about the idea of being very clear about your goal in the conversation. Understand what is the outcome that you want, be disciplined and stay the course.

This is an extremely important topic and much of the consternation that exists at work and at home comes from our lack of ability to have crucial conversations with each other. In the end, TALK IS CHEAP, but Real, Honest, Forthright Crucial Conversation is NOT.