Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Behind the Scenes of the New Crucial Conversations Courses

Written by Emily Gregory and Justin Hale

What’s different about Crucial Conversations, and why did we revise a course that has helped millions?

Over the past eighteen months, we have held some of the most challenging Crucial Conversations of our careers and lives, sometimes with each other. Perhaps you can relate. How many conversations have you held like this over the past year and a half?

  • Adapting your business model to a new market reality
  • Creating a diverse workforce
  • Discussing poor performance with an employee and treating them as a whole person too
  • Reaching agreement with your spouse 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
  • Supporting a family member through a gender transition
  • Dealing with a financial setback
  • Building a just and equitable neighborhood
  • Discussing vaccines with a loved one who feels differently than you do about the topic

These are some examples of the conversations we held this year, many of which we 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 you will find in the courses that you can start using today.

Share Your Good Intent

To create psychological safety in a conversation, you must both have and share your good intent. Simply having good intent isn’t enough. The other person needs to hear your good motives and believe that you mean what you say for true safety to exist in the conversation.

Time and time again this year we have seen people moving really fast. The pace of conversations is accelerating, and sometimes spiraling. Often the first thing to go is a statement of good intent because we assume it’s understood. And yet often it isn’t. Starting a Crucial Conversation with a sincere statement of good intent helps to anchor the dialogue and can dramatically 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 impact our relationship because it’s the most important thing in the world to me. Can we talk?”
  • “First, know that I think you are doing a really nice job in your role. I also want to see you grow in this department and have the success you want to have. And I’d like to share some ideas I believe will help you do that.”

Balance Confidence with Humility

Over the past year, we have heard from thousands of people struggling to hold conversations effectively. Generally, 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 as loud and as long as their lungs will allow them.

What we know about dialogue is this: you must have the confidence that your meaning is important, that your voice belongs in the conversation, 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’ve got to make space for others’ perspectives too. Only when we balance confidence in our ideas with humility to accept our limitations can we truly engage in productive dialogue. Here are some examples.


  • “The Fact of the matter is…”
  • “The only reasonable option is…”
  • “Everyone knows that…”

Try Instead:

  • “My opinion is…”
  • “From my perspective, we should consider…”
  • “My experience has driven me to believe that…”

Listening Does Not Mean Agreeing

When people ask us for advice on how to hold a Crucial Conversation, they typically 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. Hearing others does not mean you must share their viewpoint.

At the same time, when you listen only to those you agree with, you can get caught an echo chamber. 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.

We hope you’ll join us on that journey. You can preview the new courses in a free live webinar with us later this month. See you soon.

Emily and Justin

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

1 thought

  1. Eva Daniels

    Crucial Conversations has had such an impact for me. I created an e-Learning interaction based off of the STATE strategy titled “Conversations that Work”. Having a go to technique when conversations become sensitive and uncomfortable is such a vital part of a communication toolbox.

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