RSPA Recommended Read: Crucial Conversations

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, MSP, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Chris Arnold, RSPA Marketing Communications Manager

Do you always walk away from a highly emotional conversation with a colleague and felt that it went exactly as planned, that you were truly heard, and all parties were ecstatic with the resolution? If you said yes, congratulations because you are excelling in tough conversations. However, I have a feeling you answered the same way I would have a couple weeks ago – a reluctant no. My perspective changed after RSPA VP of Marketing Jim Roddy introduced me to Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Stephen R. Covey.

As a young professional (a.k.a. millennial) thriving to be a leader, I always search for opportunities to improve my communication skills. I am positive that there are many tough conversations in my future and, with the proper training and tools, I will be better prepared to handle these uncomfortable, risky exchanges. Thanks to Crucial Conversations, I now understand the innerworkings of what makes a conversation crucial and will apply those principles to my interactions.

I now feel better aligned to take control, listen, and create productive actions. Here are some of the impactful passages from Crucial Conversations that have equipped me with these new and improved skills:

  1. If you know how to handle crucial conversations, you can effectively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.
  2. Crucial conversations are a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.
  3. Strong relationships, careers, organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power – the ability to talk openly about high stakes, emotional, controversial topics.
  4. Individuals who are the most influential – who can get things done and at the same time build relationships – are those who master their crucial conversations.
  5. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable – regardless of level or position.
  6. In all cases, failed conversations never make us happier, healthier, or better off.
  7. At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information.
  8. The best at dialogue present themselves with tougher questions – questions that turn the either/or choice into a search for the all-important and ever-elusive and.
  9. The only person you can directly control is yourself.
  10. We get so caught up in what we’re saying that it can be nearly impossible to pull ourselves out of the argument in order to see what’s happening to ourselves and to others.

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  1. If you make conversations safe enough, you can talk about almost anything and people will listen.
  2. As people begin to feel unsafe, they start down one of two unhealthy paths. They move either to silence (withholding meaning from the pool) or to violence (trying to force meaning in the pool).
  3. Become a vigilant self-monitor: pay close attention to what you’re doing and the impact it’s having, and then alter your strategy if necessary.
  4. To succeed in crucial conversations, we must really care about the interests of others – not just our own.
  5. As people perceive that others don’t respect them, the conversation immediately becomes unsafe and dialogue comes to a screeching halt.
  6. The best at dialogue use four skills to create a mutual purpose. (1) Commit to seek mutual purpose. (2) Recognize the purpose behind the strategy. (3) Invent a mutual purpose. (4) Brainstorm new strategies.
  7. By asking what role you’ve played [in a conversation], you begin to realize how selective your perception has been.
  8. With experience and maturity, we learn to worry less about others’ intent and more about the effect others’ actions are having on us.
  9. Skilled people are humble enough to realize that they don’t have a monopoly on the truth nor do they always have to win their way.
  10. Facts form the foundation of belief.
  11. Others need to feel safe sharing their observations and stories – particularly if they differ from yours.
  12. Work on me first. Discover your part in the problem.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.0/10

I don’t think it’s a secret that millennials have a reputation of avoiding tough face-to-face conversations. With the availability of computers, cell phones, social media, etc., it is easy for my generation to hide from conversations behind email and text messages – be “keyboard warriors.”

While sending a text or email may seem like an effective way for one party to communicate, digital communication lacks the ability to create dialogue. At the core, effective communication has never changed. It takes two to tango. Both parties must be able to express their thoughts and opinions, then walk away with agreed upon resolutions.

To excel in crucial conversations and become a successful leader in today’s world, we all need to focus on learning to communicate both digitally and in person. Crucial Conversations provides the tools to step up to life’s most difficult and important conversations, say what’s on your mind, and achieve a positive resolution.

We all want job satisfaction and to maximize profitability for our organization. A statistic in the book stuck with me and has encouraged me to tackle tough conversations head on: “You can save over $1,500 and an eight-hour workday for every crucial conversation employees hold rather than avoid.”

If you want to be prepared to handle tough conversations, share your thoughts, earn buy in, and create positive resolutions in all your conversations, purchase your copy of Crucial Conversations here.

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Chris Arnold is the Marketing Communications Manager for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). Active in the association since 2017, Chris plays a key role in member engagement, new member recruitment, event promotion, messaging strategy & execution, and content creation. Chris helps lead the RSPA Marketing Committee and is responsible for the association’s email and social media campaigns. He also serves as the Executive Editor for Connect Magazine and Producer for the RSPA Trusted Advisor Podcast. For more information, contact