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3 Tips to Help You Talk Through Today’s Controversial Issues


Wed Nov 03 2021

3 Tips to Help You Talk Through Today’s Controversial Issues

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During the past 18 months, we have held some of the most challenging crucial conversations of our careers and personal lives, sometimes with each other. How many conversations like these listed below have you recently held?

  • Reaching agreement with your partner about how to manage the house and kids while you both work from home

  • Masks in your children’s school or sending your kids back to school

  • Addressing bias in the workplace

  • Dealing with a financial setback

  • Building a just and equitable neighborhood

  • Discussing vaccines with a loved one who feels differently than you

These are some examples of the conversations we had this year, many of which were held virtually for the first time. We used all our crucial skills. We often thought, “How do people get by if they don’t have the skills?”


When we looked at our courses through the lens of today’s challenges, the skills to handle them were there, of course, but examples of how to do so were not. And we knew that had to change. People needed to see in our courses themselves and the conversations they face.

So, we overhauled our two most popular courses—Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability—with one objective: to demonstrate how timeless skills can be applied to today’s challenges. We refreshed everything from the videos to the practice scenarios to the slides and images. We are so excited for you to see and experience our new courses: Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue and Crucial Conversations for Accountability.

Here are three ideas from these courses that you can start using today:

Share Your Good Intent

Time and time again this year we have seen the pace of conversations accelerating. Often the first thing to go is a statement of good intent. Starting a crucial conversation with a sincere statement helps anchor the dialogue and can influence the outcome. It sounds like this:

  • “Hey. Do you have a minute to touch base on the Praxis project? I have some ideas that I think will lighten our workload, and I want to share those with you.”

  • “I was wondering if we could talk about what happened on Friday night. I love you, and I want to make sure we talk about things that affect our relationship because it’s the most important thing in the world to me. Can we talk?”

Balance Confidence With Humility

During the past year, we have heard from thousands of people struggling to hold conversations effectively. They fall into two camps:

  • Those afraid to speak up in an increasingly polarized and divisive world

  • Those convinced that the only way to be heard and get results is to yell loudly and for a long time

What we know about dialogue is this: you must have the confidence that your meaning is important and that your lived experience is valid. At the same time, you need to balance that confidence with humility. This means accepting that your truth is not necessarily the truth. As you share your perspective, you have to make space for others’ perspectives. Only when we balance confidence in our ideas with humility can we truly engage in productive dialogue.

Listening Does Not Mean Agreeing

When people ask us for advice on how to hold a crucial conversation, they want to know how to talk. But knowing how to listen is as important as knowing how to talk. You become a better listener when you understand that listening respectfully is not the same as agreeing. The point is to listen, especially to those you might not agree with.

Now, don’t mistake what we are saying. You don’t have to listen to abusive or violent diatribes. You can and should draw boundaries. But more and more we are seeing people draw boundaries in such a narrow way that they are only hearing that which they already agree with.

We have tough conversations ahead of us. If we are to make progress, we must create inclusive, safe, and thoughtful conversations that challenge us to expand our thinking. Our passion is to help people do just that.

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