If someone doesn’t feel like opening up to you, they won’t. Even if you practiced all the skills we teach in Crucial Conversations, you cannot make someone to dialogue. This is frustrating in all situations. But at work it might hinder your job and the quality of your work. So, why are these skills not working?
The skills we teach in the Crucial Conversations course are not techniques that will allow you to control others. They are not the tools to manipulate someone’s behaviour or eliminate other’s opinions. These skills have certain limitations and in no way guarantee that other people will behave in a way you desire.
These skills also aren’t a one-time technique. It is very tempting to think of a crucial conversation as the one chance to solve this issue, one conversation needed to save a relationship, or one opportunity to make everything right. But it’s not. What if instead, we saw the single crucial conversation as the beginning of the dialogue?
Building Psychological Safety into Relationships
The first conversation is often just a starting point for many more conversations to come. These conversations can be the first of many toward making a negative relationship positive, the first of many necessary to right a wrong. What if we not only have a conversation based on mutual purpose and respect, but rather a strong relationship based on these conditions?
These principles and skills are about more than one conversation. They are ways of building relationships, teams, and families. The smartest use of these skills is to develop healthy habits — not to use them occasionally in single interactions but use it ongoingly.
Making A Teenager Feel Safe Enough to Talk
Here’s how I experienced it in my own family. Few years ago, I had serious concerns about one of my teenage daughters. She’d always been a straight-A student, but then her grades declined. She started bringing home Cs and Ds. And after school, instead of hanging out with her friends, she stayed in her room alone.
Something was definitely wrong.
But my repeated efforts of using my best skills to get her to talk were rebuffed with silence or one-word replies. When she did initiate a conversation, it was only to complain or make a sarcastic comment.
It would be easy to see these crucial conversations with my daughter as failures. Not a single attempt created dialogue with her or solved a problem. Yet, consistently applied principles can have a strong influence over time. Every heartfelt attempt to talk with her made it safer for her. Each time I replied to her sarcasm with respect, I nurtured safety. Every time I stopped probing before she felt overwhelmed, I showed respect for her privacy.
As I shared my good intentions and offered to be of help, her negative stories softened.
Then came the memorable part. After several weeks of patience and consistent effort, she felt safe enough, she approached me, discussed her problem, and asked for my help. Our conversation created understanding and options and gave her the resolve to pursue them.
Tip: Be Patient as Building Safety Takes Time
If you use these skills exactly the way we tell you to and the other person doesn’t want to dialogue, you won’t dialogue. But as you work to transform your workplace into a place of mutual purpose and respect, be patient. It may take a while to cultivate the safety needed to see the change you’re looking for.
However, if you persist, refusing to take offence, making your motives genuine, showing respect, and constantly searching for mutual purpose, then the other person almost always will join you — even if it takes some time.