Everyone has encountered situations where promises have been broken, expectations have been violated and people have just flat out acted inappropriately. These are actions that trigger the need for a crucial confrontation, or holding someone accountable for their actions face-to-face. The book Crucial Confrontations teaches you how to identify a crucial confrontation, decide whether or not it should be addressed, create a sense of safety for everyone involved to discuss the situation openly and honestly, and then establish and carry out an appropriate action plan to resolve the issue.
Before a crucial confrontation can begin the confronter must decide what the real problem is and if it should be addressed. Many times problems arise in bundles and the issue that seems most obvious is not always the issue that needs to be addressed. It is important to understand all issues upfront. The book gives the example of a teenage daughter coming home an hour after her curfew. Her parents are upset that she is late but that is not the only problem here.
She also willfully broke curfew, lied to her parents that she would be home on time, and she was trying to get back at them for grounding her last weekend and knew it would drive them crazy if she wasn’t home on time. At this point it is imperative that her parents decide what issue to confront so that they aren’t dealing with the same issues again. Once all of the issues have been uncovered and the correct one to address has been established it is time to decide if the problem should be confronted at all.
Just because you have decided on the issue you want to deal with, it doesn’t mean that you should. It is important at this point to weigh the consequences of the action and to make sure you are talking when you should. You need to determine if you are comfortable speaking up even if no one else does and decide if you have the skills to carry out the crucial confrontation. If you do not have the skills it is probably best to stay silent until you have researched how to properly approach these kinds of situations.
After the decision to act has been made it is important that you are in the right frame of mind to handle this crucial confrontation. This step must take place before you start talking to ensure that you do not go in with an aggressive, confrontational manner that does not make the other party feel safe or respected. Ask yourself what other possible reasons could there be for someone to have acted the way they did. Ask yourself if the reward system in place makes the behavior desirable. And finally, ask yourself whether the person has the ability to complete the task in question.
Once you have thought about all of these different reasons and not just jumped to the first negative conclusion you could think of, you will have established a much less volatile environment for the conversation to take place. Before a person starts a crucial confrontation there are also things that should not be done. It is always wise not to play games, play charades, pass the buck, or make the person who has disappointed you read your mind. An example of playing games is giving a compliment followed by bringing up the problem, and then giving another compliment.
This tactic sends the wrong message. This indirect method gets the point across but will come off as sarcastic, manipulative and insulting to the offending party. See the text for in depth discussions about the other games people play. It is now time to begin the crucial confrontation and it is important to first describe the gap by explaining what was expected and what was actually observed. The best way to describe this gap is to start with safety, share your path, and end with a question. The text states that, “at the foundation of every successful confrontation lies safety.
When others feel frightened or nervous or otherwise unsafe, you can’t talk about anything. But if you can create safety, you can talk with almost anyone about almost anything even about failed promises. ” Watch for signs that safety is at risk. People feel unsafe when they perceive that people don’t respect them or people don’t care about their goals. It’s important to show mutual respect. One must check the tone in how they describe the gap and show the other person that they have a mutual purpose. The overall goal should be a win-win situation.
It is important to tell the rest of the story. Too often people are so concentrated on telling their side of the story that they don’t give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Inherently when problems are brought up, the other person prepares for the worst. Anticipate this by using the contrasting skill. We can avoid making the fundamental attribution error, which is assuming that others do contrary things because of their makeup or that they actually enjoy doing negative behavior. Contrasting is a fundamental attribution error killer.
Explain immediately what you don’t mean and then explain what you do mean. When addressing the ability side of a problem, be careful not to misdiagnose. Motivation and ability can be confused. Be aware that people can mask the cause of a problem by hiding an ability problem. When ability problems are identified, make it easy for the other person to keep his or her commitment. When others get involved with the problem solving process and brainstorm the reasons for the failed ability, it encourages them to become part of the solution.
Once the person has confronted the ability problem, it is important to pop the question to check for the other person’s motivation to get the task done. If others get side tracked while you are having a crucial confrontation, you must stay focused and flexible. Be flexible by 1) noting the new problem, 2) selecting the right problem (original, new or both, 3) resolve the new problem and return to the original problem. Be focused by 1) dealing with problems one at a time, 2) consciously choosing to deal with new problems, or 3) don’t allow problems to be forced upon you.
Emergent problems that may come up during a crucial confrontation includes: people feeling unsafe, people violating your trust, or having to deal with anger. The goal is to create a safety valve when these emerging problems come up. After learning and mastering the before and during steps of a crucial confrontation it is time to move onto the after. The third section of the book covers the “Move to Action” phase of the author’s three-part diagram. This phase involves agreeing on a plan and following up. At the end of a crucial confrontation a specific plan needs to be established by both parties involved.
The key idea behind setting the plan is to build commitment. With both parties committed to working on the issue at hand there should be less of a chance that the person will fall back into their old habits. In order to successfully construct this plan the book provides four key components one should use. The components are: who, what, where and follow up. It is stressed that in order for accountability to work, each of these components needs to be answered and addressed with the other person. To remember these four components it is suggested to memorize WWWF.
The second part of the “Move to Action” phase is following up. It is stressed that in order for your plan to be successful you must have a set time frame that you have discussed with the other person. Three important variables are discussed in this section in regards to choosing the frequency and way a person should follow up. These variables are risk, trust and competence. The book discusses that when you decide on when and how to follow up you want think of the following questions: How risky is the project? How well has this person done in the past? How much experience does this person have?
Answering these questions help provide information needed to establish a time frame to follow up. This second meeting should go over how the person is doing in regards to accomplishing goals or dealing with issues the crucial confrontation addressed. Similar to our reading in class about performance reviews and goal setting this section of the book discusses how following up can help motivate, gain commitment and open discussions between both parties. After discussing the before, during and after steps of crucial confrontations the book goes on to provide information and examples of how to apply each step in real situations.
In particular each step of a crucial confrontation is broken down and explained using an example regarding a married couple and the fear of infidelity. This example demonstrates how people think and react to each part of a crucial confrontation. It shows and explains how even in the stickiest of situations, each step and each part of that step can be applied and a disaster can most likely be avoided. After this example you move on to reading about 12 examples that people consider exceptions to the rule.
These exceptions deal with confronting harder to talk to bosses, spouses and co-workers as well as, thoughts that many people face that result in people choosing not to confront someone. For example some of the examples discuss the fear of losing a job or spouse as a result of a confrontation. Each of the 12 examples is broken down in into two parts: the danger point and the solution. The danger point discusses events like witnessing something you know is wrong or poor performance that happens constantly and what normal human reactions are to these events.
This point is something that everyone can identify with because at some point or another we have all experienced something similar to the example. The solution discusses knowing when to choose your battles and healthy tips for avoiding disasters. It provides advice on whether it would be best to cope with the situation or cut out of the situation. There are four things a person can do when bothered by a situation the book describes. They are carp, confront, cope or cut out. Carping is described as moaning and complaining about a problem rather than facing it.
Of the four, confronting is described as the best choice as it helps resolves problems and can build better relationships. Thus, having crucial confrontation skills are essential for managers, parents, and employees, etc. to possess. There will always be opportunities to have them and they should not be avoided. This book teaches us a systematic way to know if and when we should hold crucial confrontations, what we should say during them and the proper way to follow up after holding them. In the end, crucial confrontations can strengthen relationships.