Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

Retaking Your Pen: Learning to author your worth

Among the new additions to our revamped Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue course is a skill for receiving feedback we’ve dubbed “retaking your pen.” This skill—which has become THE key takeaway from the course for some learners—handles how to avoid letting negative or poorly delivered feedback upend your sense of self-worth.

The importance of feedback isn’t new to Crucial Conversations. For the last 30 years, we’ve taught skills like State My Path and Make It Safe to help learners share their meaning without provoking defensiveness. But as we looked at how to enhance the curriculum, we found a gap in how to improve people’s ability to hear hard things, no matter how those are delivered.

When someone brings a Crucial Conversation to us, we instinctively prepare to defend ourselves against the unknown, especially when the feedback is not delivered well. On our worst days, we hear the feedback and melt down in hurt, shame, or anger. That’s when it’s time to retake your pen.

What does this new term mean? Think of your “pen” as the power to define your worth. When you hold your pen, you get to author the terms of your story: is your worth intrinsic to you? Is it about how you look? Is it contingent on what you achieve or how many people admire you? 

Whoever holds your pen can compose the terms of your wellbeing. Some days you feel in full possession of your pen no matter what is happening; your personal security comes from an enduring sense of your innate worth and not from others’ opinions of you.

Other times it’s a struggle to hold onto your pen and stay anchored in your value amid a storm of negative feedback and opinions—especially when we believe that feedback threatens our safety and/or worth, two of our most fundamental psychological needs.

Those best at Crucial Conversations regularly remind themselves of their capacity to secure their own safety and define their own worth, even while seeking the truth in tough feedback they receive. It’s a deeply personal process, but it’s the foundation of being able to show up strong in a Crucial Conversation. We teach the concept in the new video “An Imperfect Message.”

While the updated course has received praise for its relevant examples, sharp new videos, and inclusive scenarios and situations, we’ve heard that the first iteration of this video fell short—and we’re listening. Like you, we are on a learning journey, and we are committed to continual learning, growth, and improvement.

We’ve made a few changes to the video so that it aligns more fully with our values of respect, equity, and dignity. These changes are aimed to help learners focus on the principles we want them to learn and use in their lives. There are also a handful of technical edits we’ve made to our new Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue and Crucial Conversations for Accountability courses to amend some issues we caught after the initial launch.

You can download and install the latest versions of these courses, complete with these updates, in Trainer Zone today. Thank you for being partners with us on our learning journey!

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1 thought

  1. Paul Moody

    I really appreciate the concept of retaking your pen. It’s essential in being able to receive difficult feedback. That said, an issue I more often see is having a supervisor that has feedback they want to share, even simple questions or concerns, but doesn’t do it. I assume it’s because they don’t feel safe or feel like they have skills to do it right. I would be interested to know how I can help my supervisor share feedback that he wants to share and that would likely help me be more effective? And how can this become a habit that happens on a regular basis so it doesn’t have to be a major ordeal every time or avoided altogether?

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