What Do You Really Want? How Motives Can Make or Break a Relationship

When facing a high-stakes conversation, our motive is one of the most important elements.

What is it you really want?

You can create the right setting and say the right words, but if you get the motivation behind a crucial conversation wrong, you’re likely to fail.

Most of us hold court in our heads before having these high-stakes conversations. When we find the other person guilty, our motive becomes being right, blaming, punishing, or avoiding the issue altogether.

Instead, ask yourself

  • What do I want for myself?
  • What do I want for the other person?
  • What do I want for the relationship?
  • What do I want for the organisation?

The motives that emerge are much more positive.

  • A healthier working relationship
  • Better results
  • More success for you and the other person
  • Gaining knowledge

Recently, I had to ask myself, “What do I really want?” in the midst of a crucial conversation. This question changed the trajectory of the conversation and gave us the results we needed.

I was listening to a colleague speak and their opening remarks really offended me.

My blood was boiling. I was so frustrated I couldn’t even hear him anymore.

Then I thought, “I teach this stuff! I’m the expert on tough conversations with effective dialogue!” I took a deep breath and decided to go talk to him afterward. I immediately started thinking of what I’d say. By the time he finished speaking, I was ready.

I confidently walked over to him, thinking, “Get out the cameras! Watch the teacher of Crucial Conversations have a crucial conversation.” As I started sharing what I’d planned to say, he immediately got defensive. Where did I go wrong?

I realised that I’d judged him. I found him guilty of being offensive, and now I was letting him have it.

Anytime we hold court in our minds and find the other person guilty, we are likely to fail.

In the midst of the conversation, I stopped and asked myself, “What do I really want?”

So, I said to him, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to start the conversation this way. Can you help me understand what you meant?”

My motive shifted from wanting to be right to wanting to understand. His emotion shifted from being defensive to being open to having a conversation. In fact, he suggested we talk over coffee. We had a great conversation. I learned that what he said actually wasn’t offensive at all.

He had explained that in his talk, but I’d stopped listening and started thinking of what I was going to say.

How often does this happen to us in real life, right?

We see something, we judge, and then we don’t even realise the person has apologised or redeemed themselves.

Our conversation also allowed for him to understand my perspective. He listened and realised, “Maybe I offended other people like you.”

The conversation greatly benefited us both. He was open to coaching and changed the way he presented that speech. Plus, we had a stronger relationship afterward.

Make no mistake, having a healthy goal doesn’t mean we’re growing soft. Avoiding problems is no way to get results. But, there’s more than one way to be direct. Crucial Conversations provides a way of being direct that leads to greater results. Having the right motive makes the difference.

People often say they have a healthy goal, but don’t act like it. Too often they say things like, “I’m approachable. If anyone has a problem, they should come and talk to me. If someone has criticism, they should tell me to my face. If someone has an idea, I want to hear it.”

Then, when those people are approached, they actually get defensive or shut down. They stop listening or look at their cell phones while others talk to them.

Even though we may say we are approachable, we often don’t act like it.

If there’s one thing that dramatically increases the effectiveness of your high-stakes conversations, it’s asking yourself in the moment, “What do I really want?”

When we fail to hold effective crucial conversations, a culture of silence begins to take root.

Latest Blog Posts

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Improve communication, habits, productivity and more with weekly insights and tips from our authors and experts.

Join our 10,000+ community.