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Why You Shouldn't Hold a Crucial Conversation

The other day, it seemed the whole family woke up a little rushed and even more crabby. As we all tore around the house looking for socks and lunchboxes and jackets, my eyes began that familiar wander toward all the not-yet-Pinterest-worthy spots in the house. Another unwatered plant! That broken window-pane! This out-of-control closet! And the emergency earthquake kit—with expired provisions—that will certainly be the death of us all when the big one hits!

My tyrannical mental march around the house ended when it was time to take the kids to school. Drop-offs were quick and I soon found myself alone with my thoughts as I headed home to work side-by-side with my husband for the rest of the day. While driving, I planned how I would hold my hubby accountable for his role in contributing to the mountainous collection of things not-yet-done. But I’d had that conversation before and knew how it would surely go. And I didn’t think I would be enjoying the rest of my day very much. So I decided NOT to give voice to my criticism this day. Instead, when I was least in the mood for it, I walked back into the house and invited Gary to go for a walk with me. And he did! As we walked, we held hands. We talked. He even asked if he could take me out for breakfast. A lovely impromptu date with no mention of household tasks. Later that day, I mentioned I thought there was a lot to do and he agreed. We made a list together and started putting tasks on the calendar. Success!

I know Sheryl Sandberg coined the phrase “Lean In” to mean something different, but when I think about how to stop getting in the way of myself at home, it feels like a helpful mantra to lean TOWARD the people I love (when I’m most tempted to give them a good talking-to). Here’s what my new Lean In mantra is teaching me:

When the children whine, don’t tell them to stop. Just lean in for a hug.
When someone complains, don’t tell them to be grateful. Lean in with empathy.
When I feel disrespected, lean in and model respect.
When I want to control outcomes, lean in with choices and flexibility.

As my ever-wise husband likes to gently remind me, not every conversation needs to be a crucial one. As Valentine’s Day approaches, perhaps the best gifts include not just the conversations we need to have, but in some cases, the ones we don’t have. I’m working on it.

How about you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Cricket Buchler

Cricket is a Master Trainer.

11 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn't Hold a Crucial Conversation”

  1. So agree with your approach. Our programming seems to be reach outside and fix the issue. But for me now, most of the time, it is about my work and how I can change.

  2. Great perspective, Cricket! In that I’m here in snowbound Massachusetts, not surprisingly a winter related driving analogy comes to mind (and another fond memory of my dad): turn in the direction of the skid. Totally counterintuitive and totally saves the day!

  3. Your story hits home with me too and describes a challenge I struggle with regularly. How to “cultivate the soil” in a relationship (personal more than professional) to allow the water (crucial conversations) to soak in via a gentle rain versus a torrent that runs off as if falling on aa stone. I have found that sometimes influence is better accomplished through listening and sharing mutually pleasant conversation helping everyone feel more “safe” before raising more emotionally charged topics.

  4. Really can relate to your article – I always seem to see all the things that need doing – but I love what you did – going for a walk and then talking (not nagging) about all the things that need doing! This is such a positive approach – unfortunately I usually grumble a bit and not much changes. I hope to learn from your experience – thank you for sharing.

  5. Love the column Cricket! I agree, it’s about honing the skill of detecting whether someone is reaching out for “Sympathy or Solution”. Handing someone solution when all they wanted was sympathy, or vice versa becomes painful to both parties involved.

  6. I love this insite. I need to have this conversation with my granddaughter who lives with me. Constant reminders of the way I wish to live and the disparity of the way she sees things. A walk is great, then revisiting the expectations list that we prepared before she joined me. We both wrote our expectations of each other. Time for a gentle refocus. Thank you for this approach as I have been struggling with how to have this conversation.

  7. In a way, she did have a crucial conversation – with herself. We live in an instantaneous worrld where everything has to be done NOW. But in reality, the extra time during the day gave her a chance to take the emotion out of her reaction and look at both sides of the issue. She even formulated options for moving forward prior to the conversation. When she presented it later to her husband, she received the mutually acceptable buy-in she wanted/needed, without the negative knee-jerk reaction, and later remorse, that usually comes when the mouth reacts before the brain has a chance to kick in.

  8. Pete I love that phrase “Solution vs Sympathy” and added it to my daily reflection phrases on my desk. I find that a short pause allows the initial emotion to have it’s moment is very helpful when dealing with customers. I love this article. Thank you. 🙂

  9. Sheila W.
    Excellent approach. I also agree with Diane’s thoughts on allowing the mind to kick in before the mouth, which resulted in a postive outcome for both participants.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this.. I agree wholeheartedly and plan to utilize this approach and see what results I can share in the future. The quote above of “not every conversation needs to be a crucial one” really spoke to me, as I am very driven for change naturally…. this gave me pause.

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