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Greetings Connoisseurs of Fine and Effective Communication:
The book was first published in 2002. The advertising on the back-cover says "More Than 500,000 Copies Sold." I'm hoping that many of the half-million readers of "Crucial Conversations" are able to find this webpage, so they can become aware of ideas that augment and "go beyond" the skill-based paradigm of "tools for talking." The following ideas point out and solve the logical dead-ends contained in Crucial Conversations.
First, one foundational flaw found on page 143 — a logical dead-end unsolved by authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler:
Start with Heart — Get Ready to Listen: Be Sincere.
Maybe I missed something? I studied chapter after chapter for a description of how one might "Be Sincere." Obviously, just reading it and saying it . . . doesn't make it so; and contrary to an erroneous assumption sold by The Secret, neither does thinking and chanting the affirmation "Be Sincere, Be Sincere, Be Sincere," magically make you a sincere person.
For example: How do parents teach immature teenagers to become mature? They might start by communicating the message: "Be Mature," but this is like telling a green tomato to "Be Ripe." Truth is, green tomatoes will continue to be green, until they ripen naturally — and all the verbal persuasion in the world will not accelerate this process.
Ah, the process . . . the goal "Be Sincere" entails a process! A Journey of Change, a Process of Becoming that is not described within the pages of Crucial Conversations; in contrast the process of change IS detailed in my book "Changing Your Stripes."
This is one of the "logical" dead-ends in Crucial Conversations, and it becomes an "actual" dead-end when readers try to apply the skill-based paradigm encouraged by the book. Because Crucial Conversations offers "techniques" and "scripts" — logical "tools" cognitively conjured by the Head — the book tells you what to superficially say and do but FAILS to describe the Process of Change from the Heart.
Returning back to the task of teaching teenagers to "Be Mature," the first thing you must do, . . . is wait until they are NOT teenagers anymore. You see, becoming mature and being young are contradictions. Let's look at a contradictory parallel in Crucial Conversation:
The book admonishes readers to "Step Out" when things start "turning ugly" (p. 75). The book assumes that human beings live like logical business machines and can navigate high stake situations, just by capturing key question in their Head:
What do I really want for myself? (p. 34).
The book warns of destructive emotions that will absolutely undermine one's effectiveness as a crucial conversationalist — but human beings are NOT cold calculating business machines, thus being warned NOT to have certain emotions, will not change the flow of emotions one whit.
Crucial Conversations gives over-simplistic solutions like, "Take charge of your body" (p. 35), as if thinking this statement would automatically make it happen: Again, this is like telling green tomatoes to "Be Ripe" — an affirmation that has minimal effect upon the ripening process. In contrast, green tomatoes will become more mature as they are properly nourished. As gardeners love their green tomatoes . . . by watering them and feeding them essential minerals, this nurture will enhance the ripening process.
What is the comparable process of Nurture the enhances one's ability to Be Sincere or Step Out or Take Charge? Crucial Conversations does not describe that Process of Nurture — that process of Change.
Coupled with the encouragement to "take charge of your body" is this statement about emotion: "You and only you create your emotions" — a conclusion that is half-right and half-wrong. For example, if someone aimed a gun at you, . . . you would immediately start emoting involuntarily; emotion would spontaneously flow reactively and NOT logically. Crucial Conversations suggests "find a way to master emotions or fall hostage to them."
A way to master emotions is NOT "found" in the pages of Crucial Conversation. Just explaining what Emotions are, is a very deep subject; in my book Changing Your Stripes, 30 pages are dedicating to defining Emotions, let alone mastering Emotions.
Truth is, human beings cannot actually "master" their emotions, anymore than they can stop flowing water from cascading over a cliff. This is because Emotions are E-motions, or Energy-in-Motion. Once the E-Motion is in Motion, we have little control over them.
On the other hand, human being can determine their propensity to respond emotionally prior to high stake happenings. But once a person is IN that high-stakes happening, the propensity IS what it IS, and all the logical conjuring in the world cannot change what will come out of you — just like you cannot stop the flow of running water over a cliff.
Some people are like land mines waiting to be stepped on, waiting to explode as someone steps on their emotional trip wire. Hence, becoming "skilled" in speaking scripted responses is NOT the ultimate answer, but superficial scripts IS essentially the only answer that Crucial Conversations offers.
There is an illusion in the phrase "take charge of your body." And that illusion is further fostered in the phrase "Skills for Mastering Our Stories" . . . as well as the encouragement: "If we take control of our stories, they won't control us" (p. 101).
The book creates the illusion that YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL of your stories and your emotions; this is an illusion because human beings cannot really CONTROL their stories or their emotions, especially in the moment when stakes are high — human beings are not logical business machines. Nevertheless, people can determine their the flow of their emotions and stories tomorrow, by experiencing a Change of Heart today.
Crucial Conversations offers Head-Heavy solutions: Mastering a set of skills! Again,Crucial Conversations emphasizes external scripts and external choreographies — without understanding or explaining how human experience a fundamental Change of Heart. The Change of Heart is fundamental. Why so? Jesus taught this truth:
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good;
Skills and techniques are useful in accomplishing mechanical tasks. People can perfect behavior choreography over time, with practice. But if one wants to "Be Sincere" this is NOT done like a dance, learning the external choreography called "Be Sincere" — this Intent of Heart is NOT a mechanical task. Instead, Being Sincere is a matter of Who You Are from your core.
To Be Sincere, you must be changed from your core. How does this happen? My book, "Changing Your Stripes" answers this question thoroughly.
When things start to heat up emotionally, Crucial Conversation encourages logic and the acquisition of skill. Crucial Conversation encourages the asking of this pragmatic question: "Will continuing this current course, help me get what I want?" This is a good question, but merely knowing that the your "current course" is NOT working, does not make the best course automatically appear.
The book give superficial lip service to foundational principles, and then returns, over and over to the skills and techniques that one will actuate via an educated Head.
More Conceptual Flaws
Bottom line: the book asks you to do many things, that you can't really do, unless you are an unflappable person of low emotion — human being as logical business machine. Trying to push aside emotion is NOT the answer, for we gain advantage when emotions energize our positive passions.
Here's a list of what I call Bright White Emotions versus . . . Gray to Black Emotions. So the real key is NOT to block emotions, but to become the kind of person from which Bright White Emotions Flow!
How does that happen? Changing Your Stripes details that process.
Now to the topics of finding "Mutual Purpose" (p. 68) and fostering "Mutual Respect" (p. 71). As to "Mutual Purpose," using the CRIB technique, when you can't "discover a Mutual Purpose, . . . you must actively invent one" (p. 85). This smack of the "fake-it-till-you-make-it" positive mental attitude approach of . . . if you think it long enough and hard enough, you will eventually create that reality.
We know that "thinking" up realities do not work, whenever other people do not cooperate with your creative positive mental imaging—that's reality.
As to the "Mutual Respect" objective, this curious question is posed "Can You Respect People You Don't Respect" (p. 73). The book encourages a superficial"pretending to respect" technique (when at the heart you have no respect for that person).
The book actually mentions a key to mutual respect, but fails to develop it at the level of heartfelt honesty. The authors write:
"finding a way to honor and regard another person's basic humanity" (p. 72).
BINGO . . . Changing Your Stripes directly explains the "way" we come to honor and regard other human beings by straight-forward honesty — Being Sincere from the Heart. In contrast, Crucial Conversation regresses again and again to a Head Heavy paradigm, offering solutions of logic, skill, and superficial strategy.
"Changing Your Stripes" presents principles for getting out of
"Mastering a challenging situation
"Changing Your Stripes," teaches you the principles that lead to lasting change,
If these ideas resonate and ring true,
Changing Your Stripes is a