PMI Belgium

PMI Belgium

by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
PMI - BOOK REVIEW - by Gregor Nicolas

 Crucial learning BookWho are the authors? 

The authors are authors, educators, trainers, business people in the corporate training and organizational performance sector. They founded Vital Smarts. 

Al Switzler is the co-chairman and co-founder of VitalSmarts (now crucial learning in specific locations), innovating corporate training and organizational performance. 

Joseph Grenny is a keynote speaker and social scientist for business performance. He has shared the stage with General Colin Powell, Jack Welch, Jim Collins, and Brené Brown at some of the world’s premier leadership conferences and organizations, including the HSM World Business Forum. 

Kerry Patterson is 25 years expert in organizational behavior, corporate training, and interpersonal communication. 

Ron McMillan is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and social scientist for organizational change. For thirty years, Ron has delivered engaging keynotes at major conferences over Training and Development and Human Resource Management. 

Emily Gregory is the new addition to the book and is VP of development at the Crucial Learning. 


A crucial conversation is a critical interaction that requires care and time during a specific moment. While care and the approach come from experience and exposure, time is different and the same for everyone. Time and timing is the uncontrollable element of the crucial conversation. 

  • • Calling a client who hasn't paid an overdue invoice. 
  • Talking to your boss about a promotion he promised, but that never came. 
  • • Confronting a teammate who isn't doing his share of a project. 


Navigating a crucial conversation is like defusing an explosive. Touch or hit the wrong wire, and you set off an explosion of emotion. The best way to avoid an emotional outburst and prevent a conversation from going silent or verbally violent is to keep the dialogue going while maintaining a safe environment for the participants to express themselves respectfully. Dialogue shows an excellent chance to work through the issue at the heart of any crucial conversation. 

You can learn to diffuse tension during a crucial conversation and get back to productive dialogue: by not starting with a conclusion (“You don’t care about…”). Instead, start with your observations: “When… (this happened and that happened)”; “I… (experienced this thought or emotion)”. 

After sharing your observations as objectively as possible, invite them to share their story. 

For example, if you need to confront a teammate who's not doing his share of work on a team project, start by saying, “When you don't show up to team meetings and don't deliver work to your teammates on time, I fear you don't care about this project and aren't putting in the same effort as your teammates. I'm probably not seeing the whole picture. Can you help me see what's going on?” 

“The best at dialogue speak their minds completely and do it in a way that makes it safe for others to hear what they have to say and respond to it as well. They are both totally frank and completely respectful.” – Crucial Conversations 

During a negotiation, you may need to lose the position/power tension and find common ground. 

“Find a shared goal, and you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking.” – Crucial Conversations. To ensure your conversation partner DOES NOT see you as the enemy and resist everything you say, find and communicate a common goal, value, or purpose. If you can identify and share a common goal, value, or purpose, your conversation will transform from a fight to a strategy brainstorming session (looking for a way to get what you both want). 

If a crucial conversation with a teammate isn’t going well, remind him, “We both want to enjoy working together, and this argument isn’t helping. Let’s see if we can come up with a creative solution together.” 

If a conversation with your spouse isn't going well, pause and say, “Why are we fighting? We both love and want what's best for this family. Let’s work together to find a solution that works for both of us.” 

If you’re arguing with a client, remind her, “We both want a long a profitable business relationship. Let’s see if we can find a win‐win solution here.” 

Try to leave no stone unturned. Prime. Usually, you can get a conversation up to speed by offering a good-faith guess as to what your conversation partner is thinking. It can be as simple as saying, “Are you thinking…” and voice concerns they may have. 

To make a good-faith guess, you must form two beliefs: 

1. I'm talking to a reasonable, rational, and decent person. 

2. I am primarily responsible for the problem behind this conversation. 

With these two foundational beliefs, any attempt to guess what someone is thinking will come across with a dose of goodwill and humility (both of which get a conversation back to productive dialogue). 

The more you engage in productive dialogue, the greater chance you find agreements, and the more likely you’ll work together to resolve the problem at the heart of any crucial conversation. 

Project managers manage by communication and proactive actions. Crucial conversations will tackle a conversation like a project. 

- Purpose and objectives to reach are defined. 

- You choose your resources and plan or act with facts in mind. 

- Avoid the fluff, stay focused on the objective 

- Manage conflicts and bring back the team to the common ground 

- Evaluate and keep score (a registry of lessons learned). 


Here are ten takeaways from Crucial Conversations: 

1. Safety First – everyone needs to feel safe; always bring the conversation back to safety 

2. Be Pragmatic and let the facts lead – stay factual and avoid assumptions unless necessary to keep the conversation going. Assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” Ass – u – me.  

3. Start with yourself – you know yourself better and should control your story, so you are clear and frank with the word you are about to share. 

4. Find mutual purpose – like for a negotiation, search the common ground that benefits both parties to grow and unwind the emotional nods of manipulation of the personal stories. 

5. Curiosity is Key – ask the question and allow time to be valuable to solve the root of the critical conversation 

6. Choose your words – avoid sarcasm and ask if your comments are understood correctly. Be straightforward. 

7. Confirm the message – what you say may not be what they hear. Accept the challenge of being questioned by the audience and seek understanding. 

8. Break Free from the Fools choices – do not go for the ‘my way of the highway’ type of behavior during crucial conversations. This may work during a ‘wartime ‘or significant crisis, but bruises will be left and felt. 

9. Listen Up – As they share, Crucial Conversations says it’s important to remember the ABCs to be a skillful listener: Ask, mirror, paraphrase, and prime. 

10. Self-Assess for success – become vigilant, self-monitor, and adjust next time. Receive feedback if needed. 



Crucial Conversations is a book that ignites the need for learning and practice. If all professionals and kids started by learning negotiations and crucial conversations, we would be a step ahead in avoiding some unnecessary conflicts. 

This book’s second edition is fantastic and calls to make an effort to get your communication as clear and as comfortable as possible, even when the subject is difficult to convey. 

One point to remember is action. The book mentions it, but it is not popular in real life. This step is when the conversation ends by clearly defining who takes which effort and when. 

I am missing an emphasis on the fact that time is limited and keeping the conversation going may not lead to many solutions if the other party really does not want to participate in the dialogue. This assumption that the other party will come forward making an ass of the authors’ training background where the attendants are most likely want to get involved. 

Check out the Crucial-Conversations-Tools-Talking-Stakes


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