I am a fan of the book “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny. It teaches the art of having hard, but important, conversations at work or at home. Grenny says “At the heart of almost all unresolved problems is a conversation that is not being held or not being held well.”
Our family lives are filled with the need for crucial conversations. But the biting truth is, most of us avoid these conversations or do a poor job with them.
Think about the last conflict you had with a family member. It might have started out small but quickly escalated. Or the problem might have been important, but it was either ignored or turned into a yelling match.
Case in point: early in our marriage my wife and I had a discussion about the “proper” way to put bath towels in the linen closet. I had done laundry, folded the towels, and put them away. I was looking for my gold star. But instead, I received helpful advice that I had put the towels away wrong. Diane said towels need to be put away with the fold of the towel facing out, so that the next person could easily grab it. In my defense I argued, “There’s no ‘right way’ to put towels away. Let’s be happy I did the laundry and put it away!”
Diane smiled knowingly and observed perhaps I did the job wrong because my mom did it wrong. MY MOM!! Out came my boxing gloves! Put up your dukes! Nobody picks on my mom!
You get the picture. It was a small thing, but we let the conversation get out of control. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore how to have a crucial conversation but, for this week, be alert to the three signs that a conversation is becoming “crucial”: (1) opposing viewpoints, (2) strong emotions, and (3) high stakes. Keep an eye out for crucial conversations and, while you’re at it, check your linen closet to insure your towels are folded correctly.