Beat the Competition with Social Selling


David Maxfield

David Maxfield is coauthor of the three New York Times bestsellers Crucial Accountability, Influencer and Change Anything. David completed doctoral work in psychology at Stanford University and has since taught at Stanford University and the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University where he received the Motorola University’s Distinguished Teaching Award and Stanford University’s Dean’s Award for Innovative Industrial Education.

As vice president of research at VitalSmarts, David leads an ongoing series of research projects uncovering the negative impact of cultures of silence in organizations around the world. His research has been published widely including in the MIT Sloan Management Review, where his article “How to Have Influence” was awarded The 2009 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for the most outstanding article on planned change and organizational development.

Webinar Transcript

Male Voice 1: David Maxfield is co-author of three New York Times best-sellers, "Crucial Accountability", "Influencer", and "Change Anything". David completed his doctoral work in psychology at Stanford University, and has since taught at Stanford and the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, where he received the Motorola University's Distinguished Teaching Award and Stanford University's Dean's Award for Innovative Industrial Education.

As Vice President of Research at VitalSmarts, David leads an ongoing series of research projects uncovering the negative impact of cultures of silence in organizations around the world. His research has been published widely, including in the MIT Sloan Management Review, where his article, "How to Have Influence", was awarded the 2009 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for the most outstanding article on planned change and organizational development. To talk to us more about crucial conversations, please welcome David Maxfield.

Male Voice 2: Boom.

David: Hi. I'm David Maxfield with VitalSmarts, and we're going to focus today on crucial conversations, the crucial intervention, a rapid and sustainable remedy to your pressing problems. So I'd like to start with a fun research study we did inspired by the TV show, "Seinfeld". If you're a fan of the show, you might remember a saying they had. The saying went like this, "Serenity now, insanity later." Well, we wanted to test this hypothesis. Is it true that people opt for serenity now and end up with insanity later?

Well, we tested it by surveying 1,400 employees, managers, and supervisors. So imagine for a minute that you're one of our subjects. Here's the question we'd send you. "Imagine you were given a magical free pass, one that allowed you to say anything you wanted to to one person at work, just one. The magical pass comes with a guarantee that you will suffer no consequences for what you say. What would you say, and to whom? Think for a second about who you'd talk to, and about what.

Here are some fun examples. "To my boss. For eight years, you single-handedly drove away every good employee we've ever had. I can no longer tolerate your condescending tone, your passive micromanaging, your overt verbal sexual harassment toward female employees, your hypocritical management of work time, or even your insincere compliments." You get a feeling this guy is just getting started. Now, we have a saying in crucial conversations that, "If you don't talk it out, you'll act it out." Can you imagine this person with all these grievances about his or her boss is acting out some of those concerns? You bet they are.

Here's another. "To the woman next to me. Do you have a cat or something that marks your coat, your shoes, or your bags? There's a really bad odor from you and your desk. It's very nauseating and offensive to me." Wow. Can you imagine holding that in? On average, these were held in for six months or longer without being spoken about. Here's another. Now remember, we asked for ones about workplace, but we got a few from home as well.

"To my husband. I feel frustrated by the mess and clutter in our house. I love you, but I can't stand this anymore. I've been patient for a long time. It appears you don't care. In addition, I think you need professional help to deal with hoarding tendencies." One last one of these. "To Shirley. Grow up. Act like an adult. Learn your job. Be accountable and stop talking about yourself all the time."

Now, you can imagine if you let these things go... If you opt for serenity today, can you imagine the insanity you're buying for tomorrow? For a question, ask what's in your vault. Are there concerns? Are there people you have problems with that you haven't talk to, that you need to talk to, that you think you're keeping it in your vault, but you're really not?

Okay. Three big ideas from our book, "Crucial Conversations". The first is the fact that you're talking doesn't mean you're solving the right problem. The second is the way you start a conversation determines whether you like the way it ends. And the third is if you question your story, you can master your emotions. Now, there's a whole lot in this book that we're not going to cover, so I've cherry-picked three big ideas. So let's get started.

The fact that you're talking doesn't mean you're solving the right problem. I represent a problem here by a knot, because problems don't always come to us in a straight line. Sometimes they're pretty mixed up and crazy, and tangled up like a knot. When we do studies, and we put people together with a crucial conversation they have, we find that 80% of the time they talk around the problem rather than talking about the problem. They get distracted.

So here's a skill for dealing with it. We call it "CPR", just so you don't confuse it with anything else. Now, our CPR stands for content, pattern, and relationship, and I want to illustrate this with an example from my home. A few months ago, I knew I needed to take my pickup truck in for an oil change and a bit of maintenance. It was early in the morning and my wife, Cathy, and I were still in bed. It was about, I don't know, 6:00, 6:30 in the morning, and I knew that the auto repair place opened at 7:00.

So I turned to Cathy and said, "You know, I want to take my truck in. Could you give me like a 10 minute head start? I want to drop it off when he opens at 7:00 and have you pick me up so I can get back to work by 8:00. Would that work?" She said, "Sure." So it gets close to 7:00. I drive the truck down to Big Al's Auto Repair, drop it off, 10 minutes have gone by and I'm looking around for Cathy, and I don't see her. I walk out to the street. I'm looking for the car, and it's just not there.

I end up going back in Al's repair place and sitting in his waiting room, reading his 1957 Mechanic's Illustrated for an hour waiting for my wife to pick me up. So what's the problem? The content of the problem is that she said she'd pick me up in 10 minutes, but she's an hour late. So when she drives up I say, "Cathy, I thought you were going to pick me up an hour ago," And she says, "I was. But as I was walking out to the car, my business line rang in our house, and I went and picked it up, and it was a client of ours on the East Coast where their workday had already started. They were having sort of a crisis and I had to handle it. I'm sorry it took me an hour."

Now, does that sound like sort of a valid reason for picking me up late? Sure. I mean, it worked for me. But could you imagine that my wife, Cathy, makes a pattern of being late? Like when we go to the movies together we never get to see the previews of coming attractions. Or if we're going out to dinner with friends, the friends have often already ordered before we even get to the restaurant. Or if we're going on a trip together, she hasn't built enough time into the schedule to go through security, and we miss a flight now and then.

Imagine that's the pattern. If that's the pattern, am I interested in why she's picking me up late at Big Al's? Not really, because I'm not interested in the content of any specific incident. My concern is about the pattern. Now, notice that if my concern is about the pattern, in some sense it frees me from the moment. When my concern's about content, I need to deal with it right now, right away.

But if it's a pattern, chances are the pattern's already gone on for days or weeks, or even months, and I can pick a time that's good for me and good for her to talk about the pattern. Also, I can pick which instances to use to illustrate the pattern. I might not bring up the incident at Big Al's at all. I might talk about the movies and the restaurants instead.

Now, if you've ever met my wife, Cathy, you'd know she's almost never late. I'm making up a lot of this example. In fact, I don't think she's ever missed a flight in her life. When we go to restaurants, we're usually the first people there, not the last, and we always get to see the previews of coming attractions at the movies. The only time when she's consistently late is if it somehow involves me.

So when she's late picking me up at Big Al's, what am I thinking? What am I saying to myself? "Wow. I must be a low priority of hers. She must think I'm pretty unimportant. She must not care about me very much." Notice how these are relationship kinds of questions. So this is the skill. Ask yourself, "What do I care about most? Is it the content, the incident, or is the pattern, or is it the relationship?"

So the goal will be to un-bundle a complicated problem, breaking it into its various parts using CPR, where content stands for a single instance. Where if the action itself or its immediate consequences are the issue, you've got a content problem. But if it's a long-term, recurring problem, if it's a pattern, maybe that's what you care about most. Or maybe it's a relationship issue, how the problem is affecting your working relationship.

Now, at work often these relationship issues are ones that make you think about changing your working relationship with a person, like telling them they're not promotable, or giving them a bad performance review, or deciding you don't want to work alongside them anymore. Issues that affect trust, or respect, or competence, those would be relationship issues. So let's try one of these.

Here's a complicated kind of ordinary issue. This manager focuses on details and misses the big picture. When you want to discuss strategic issues, such as roles and responsibilities, metrics, and product integration, he brings up issues that involve individual people, specific projects, and immediate deadlines. These details are important, but not relevant to the strategic issues being discussed. This morning, the team was discussing how account executives should respond to product life cycle issues, and he tried to divert the discussion to a specific client that's having budget problems. You're beginning to wonder whether he has the horsepower to participate in these strategic discussions.

Now, if you apply CPR to this you could ask yourself, "Well, what's the content? What's the incident that's there?" Well, the incident is the one that happened that morning, where you're discussing product life cycle issues and he tries to divert the discussion to a specific client. So that's the content. It's a specific incident. What's the pattern? Well, the pattern is that first sentence, that this manager has a pattern of focusing on details, tactics, and missing the strategic big picture.

Now, what's the relationship issue? It's really the last sentence. You're beginning to wonder whether this person has the competency, the intelligence to participate in these conversations. Now, it turns out that when we study this, people make a very typical mistake. They, regardless of what they say the concern is, they go to content. In fact, what they do is they go to the safest, simplest part of the problem to talk about.

Now, it would be okay if they started with the safe and simple, and then they moved to the more complicated, the pattern or the relationship. But that's not what they do. They start and end with the content, the safe and simple parts to talk about, and they hope that the person takes the hint. But other people never take the hint, it just doesn't work. So this skill helps you decide in advance, "Do I care about content, pattern, or relationship?"

But this skill also provides a second benefit, and it comes from this quote from John Foster Dulles. "The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it's the same problem you had last year." So, let me share how this might help with that. All right? So here's an example. I was working with a manager, and she had inherited a group of employees who were visiting nurses. So these were nurses who would visit patients out in their homes.

There was a state law in the state that when you visit a patient in the home, that after the visit you have to fill out a visit report which included things like any changes to medications, what the vital signs were, any kinds of treatments that you did, and you had to have it done within three days. So this manager had inherited this department, and she did an audit of their paperwork and discovered they weren't getting it in in three days. They were getting it in about a week late.

So she pulls the team together and says, "Now, I notice that you're getting these reports in about a week late. The deadline is three days. Do you need help? Is there something wrong?" They said, "No, no, no. We didn't know it was such a priority. We'll do it." She says, "Great. I'll give you a few days to catch up, and then I'll do a second audit." So she gives them a few days, she does a second audit, and she finds they haven't caught up at all. They're still a week late.

So she pulls her team together, and she says, "Maybe I wasn't clear last week, but there's a state law and it's three days, and you're a week late. Do you have a problem or something?" Notice she's getting a little hot under the collar. People say, "No, no, no. We can do it." And she says, "Okay. You've got three days to catch up." She does another audit a few days later, and they still haven't caught up. Now, she's so angry you could light her on fire. "The deadline is three days and you're a week late."

Here's the challenge. She's talking about content all the time, just content, content, content. The content is, "There's a state law, it's three days, and you're a week late." But at some point, she should escalate to talking about the pattern. Here's what the pattern sounds like, "You made a commitment to me, and you failed to follow through on your commitment." You don't talk about the state law. You don't talk about the visit reports. You talk about the pattern which is, "You make a commitment, and then you don't follow through."

Or you could escalate to relationship, which sounds like this, "You know, when you make commitments to me and fail to follow through on them, I start to wonder if I can trust you. And of course, if I can't trust you, I certainly can't send you into patients' homes." Notice that their job is now at risk. Now, she hasn't raised her voice. She's simply re-framed the problem. Is the problem content, just around an incident? Or is it a pattern, which has bigger, broader consequences? Or is it a relationship, where it has the biggest, broadest consequences of all?

One more chance to try this skill. This resource manager isn't getting you enough, or the right resources, for your project. You're only a couple weeks into your project, and he's pulling two of your best programmers to work on a project that's gone red. Your experience with this resource manager is that he does this a lot, until your project goes red. Once you've gotten yourself into an emergency, he comes to your rescue and looks like a hero. Today, you raised your concern about losing the programmers, and he said you were just a worrywart.

So what's the content inside here? It would be the specific incident. Right? So it would be the issue today. You raised your concern about losing a programmer and he said you were a worrywart. Okay. Or the content could be you're a couple weeks into the project and he's pulled two of your programmers. That's content as well. What's the pattern? The pattern is that he does this a lot until projects go red.

Then, what's the relationship issue? You're wondering if you can trust him. You're wondering if he's going to hang you out to dry, and then come in to your rescue to look like a hero. That's the relationship issue. So you ask yourself, "Which of these issues, content, pattern, or relationship, is the most important?" Now, you might start with the part that's safest and simplest to talk about, the specific incident, the content. But eventually, you'll probably want to get to either pattern or relationship.

So that's that skill. So apply it for a minute to your vault. Ask yourself, what's in your vault? What's the problem you're facing? Is it content, a specific incident? Or is it a pattern that's gone on overtime? Or is it a relationship issue, so it's something that you start to question trust, or whether you're being respected, or the person's competence? My guess is that if you've held it in your vault for a while, it's because it involves a pattern, or it involves relationship, and it's kind of frustrating to discuss.

Okay. Let's go to big idea number two. Big idea number two is the way you start a conversation determines whether you like the way it ends. In fact, that first 30 seconds, we call it "the hazardous half-minute". Those first few seconds set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Here's the problem that happens. People have concerns, but they don't speak up. They put it in their vault, and when they do that the concerns don't go away. In fact, they get worse. They fester and they turn ugly, and at some point they flip.

Now, I'm going to talk about what happens when it flips, but I need to ask a qualifying question first. How many of you on this call, this webinar, have spent a significant amount of your professional career behind bars in a state penitentiary? Because we tested this with inmates. In fact, not just any inmates. We tested it with people who were convicted of murder.

So ask yourself first... We would go into the study. We'd arrive at a prison. We did this at 43 different prisons across California. We'd meet with the warden and we'd say, "We'd like to look at the rap sheets." Which would be the sheets that show all the convictions a person has. Now, here's my first question. How many different convictions do you think the average inmate in a state penitentiary is convicted of? Any guesses. It turns out, it's between six and seven felony convictions.

Now, then we'd ask to look at the people convicted of murder, who have murder as one of their felony convictions. How many different felonies has the average murderer been convicted of? You know this. The answer is one, the murder. So we were interested in studying, what's the difference between the average inmate, which is like a professional criminal, six or seven felony convictions, and the murderers who are like rank amateurs. Right?

Here's what we learned. We learned that the average inmate, if you were to meet them on the street, you would describe them as confident, self-assured, assertive, willing to walk right up to you and ask you for something, like your wallet or your purse. But the murderers were described by their former neighbors, their family members, their former co-workers as shy, introverted, kind of timid. Get the picture? These are people, these murderers. And who have they killed? Usually, a loved one, a spouse, a neighbor, a lover, a friend, a coworker, maybe their boss.

These are people who, when they have concerns, they don't speak up. Instead, they let those concerns fester and turn ugly, and by the time they speak up they're so angry they've flipped from silence to violence. Now, we followed them behind bars and found the same pattern continued behind bars, that our prisons aren't very good finishing schools. Right? It turns out the murderers were far more likely to have their mail stolen from them. People would walk up and take food right off their plates.

How would they handle it? They'd go to silence. They wouldn't speak up. They'd let it fester, and eventually they'd blow up in anger, typically at a cellmate, one of these professional criminals. How do you think the professional criminal, their cellmate, would handle it? With their fists, that's how they'd handle it. They'd beat them to a pulp. And so, this is their life behind bars. They would flip from silence to violence, get beat up, and flip back to silence again.

Now, I'm not suggesting that anybody on this call is about to flip to violence and turn into a murderer. But I want to make the point that we're not immune from this flip-flop back and forth. In fact, when we study this from a neurological perspective, most of the time, 95% of the time with this guy you see on your screen, we're good communicators. We're good listeners. We're good thinkers. We're good communicators.

But when we get in a crucial conversation, when the stakes are high and the emotions cut in, we turn into this guy. We're left to deal with the most complex, challenging conversations of our lives with the same set of skills we would use to deal with a salivating predator. What goes wrong? So let me take you inside some of what's happening in our brain.

When we're in a crucial conversation, when the emotions kick in, our body is flooded with adrenaline. Blood rushes to our major muscle groups. Now, where does this blood come from? Well, mostly it comes from the core of our body. We're not digesting that tuna fish sandwich anymore. Instead, the blood is rushed to our major muscle groups. What are we getting ready to do? It's fight or flight. Right? We're getting to either fight or flee.

Now, what's going on inside our brains? There, the same thing is happening. Adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine are released in our brain. The prefrontal cortex, that logical, reasonable, thinking part of our brain shuts down. The amygdala, the gateway to our emotional brain, fires up and takes over. Now, a woman at Yale, Amy Arnsten is a neurologist at Yale Medical School who studies this, and she describes it as a good news, bad news kind of situation.

So, in her laboratory she'll set up a situation kind of like you're being cut off on the freeway. That's all it takes. It's enough to start this cascade of reactions. Your brain is flooded with adrenaline, your amygdala fires up, and she says, "The good news is your reaction times are much swifter, your hearing is enhanced, your vision is far more focused. That's all good. The bad news is your verbal skills and your logical reasoning skills drop precipitously. So you're left to deal with these complex conversations as if you were dealing with a predator." When we need to be at our very best, instead we're at our very worst.

Now, let me make it even more complicated. Now, this is research out of Princeton from Susan Fiske. When you're in an interaction, a crucial conversation, and it doesn't matter whether you're in this conversation with your boss, with a subordinate, with a peer, or with your mom, the first thing in that conversation, the first thing you read is you ask yourself the emotional question. "Is this person in this moment acting like a friend or a foe?" That's the first judgement you make, it's the quickest judgement you make, and it has the biggest impact on the outcome of the conversation.

The second judgement you make is the logic question. "Is what this person is saying, are they right or are they wrong?" But that's second and it takes longer, and it's much less important to the conversation. Now, here's the truth. People don't listen to your logic until they feel safe, until they feel like you're a friend, not a foe. But it gets even worse. When we're looking at our own emotions and our own motives, we assume that our motives are always pure and they're always transparent, that we're the good guys and everybody ought to know it.

So instead of taking any time to show the person what our motives are, that we're a friend, we jump immediately into trying to convince them that we're right. See the mismatch? The other person is trying to figure out if we're a friend or a foe. We're lambasting them, trying to convince them that we're right, and we run into trouble. So what's a skill you can take away? I want to build a skill that's every bit as powerful as CPR, but deals with this problem. So here's the skill.

We call it "salute the flag", and I want to set it up very carefully. We live in a culture of silence and violence. People go to silence, they go to violence, it happens all the time. Let's imagine you're about to speak up to your boss, and you've got a pretty tough boss. Is your boss going to see this as silence, or as violence? Your boss is going to see it as violence, right? In our culture when we speak up, the very fact that our lips are moving causes the other person to think that we're attacking them, that we're a foe. We're not a friend.

So the skill is to salute the flag, to signal that we're a friend, not a foe. So here's the saying you hear in the military, "Always salute the flag before you disagree with your commanding officer." That makes a lot of sense. Right? What does it mean to salute the flag before you disagree? Well, one thing it means is to show respect. Show respect for the person, for their role, and for their point of view. Show respect. We call that "mutual respect".

What else different from respect does it mean to salute the flag? Well, it reminds the person that the two of you serve under the same flag, that there's a bigger purpose. That the two of you are on the same side, that you're allies, not opponents. We call that "mutual purpose". If you can communicate mutual respect and mutual purpose, you can convey that this is not an attack. So I want you to remember that skill. The first words out of your mouth need to convey a positive purpose for why you're speaking up, that you're a friend, not a foe.

Now, the third big idea is if you can question your story, you can master your emotions. Our emotions get us into a lot of trouble. So I want to introduce this theory about how emotions work. Now, this is a pretty valid theory, and I'm going to use a researcher from Stanford, James Gross, who's the head of the Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford to talk about it. He says there are two kinds of emotions that we experience, top-down and bottom-up.

Now, top-down emotions, by top-down what he means is it's mediated by your prefrontal cortex, and it's represented in the arrow I have below. So you see and hear things, the facts that are happening around you, the world around you and your prefrontal cortex tries to interpret it and figure out what it means. I represent that by saying you tell yourself a story. You develop a theory, a story about what is going on. If that story involves a threat or a temptation, it causes your emotional center, your amygdala, to fire up and it causes a strong feeling. That feeling impels you to take quick action.

Now, that's top-down emotions. Bottom-up emotions are very different. It turns out that our visual cortex and auditory cortex have direct connections to our amygdala, to that emotional center of the brain, and they operate almost like there's an app inside our head. It turns out human beings, for example, have an app for detecting snakes. If I were to release a snake in this room right now and you saw it, your eyes would dilate, your heartbeat would jump, your blood pressure would increase. A skin response would happen, and you'd jump backwards before you even recognized it was a snake, before your prefrontal cortex was even involved. Now, those are bottom-up emotions.

They're there. They're real. But what we're going to talk about are the top-down, which is the 98% of the emotions we experience. So let's walk through a quick example. First, you see and hear stuff. So let's say, for example, you're working on a report, and your boomer manager.... Let's say you're a millennial, and your boomer manager checks up on you three times in one hour offering suggestions. What's the story you might tell yourself as to why your boomer boss was doing that?

Well, maybe the story is you decide your manager's questioning your motivation. She doesn't think you'll stay focused unless she micromanages you. See how that might be a threat? How might you feel about that? Well, maybe at first you feel kind of hurt and defensive, but that leads to anger, and your manager is obviously not paying attention to your performance in the past. Now if that's how you feel, how might you act? Well, let's say you hold a grudge and you don't listen to or respond to your manager's suggestions and that's your action.

Now, the fact that you're holding a grudge, you're not listening, you're not responding, that's a fact. Right? Is your manager likely to see and hear that? Yeah. It confirms that very story she might have started to tell herself. So see how this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and can turn seriously ugly? Now, here's the idea. First, you control your story. See, it's a story, it's your hypothesis. The story is your best guess in your prefrontal cortex as to what's going on.

But if you're not careful, your story starts to control you. The way it starts to control you is once the emotions kick in and it moves to feeling, you stop challenging, you stop questioning your story. You stop collecting evidence to confirm or deny your story. You just act as if it were true. That's like your story controlling you. So the master key to this whole emotional thing is the stories we tell ourselves. We guess, we try to figure out a motive, and we judge leading to these feelings, these strong emotions and action.

We do it really quickly. We don't even notice we're doing it, and then if we're not careful we become our own worst enemy. The negative story escalates our emotions, and we act at our worst at the very time when we need to act at our very best. So here's the skill. Retrace your path to action. Skilled people don't allow themselves to be controlled by their emotions. When they feel those emotions kicking in, they back up and they challenge their story. They question their story. They retrace that path to the source. What are the facts that they saw and what did they hear?

What's cool is James Gross at Stanford has actually studied this in the laboratory, and let me share some of his findings. He'll put people in a functional MRI. So the machine can track what's going on inside your brain in real-time, it takes a snapshot of what your brain is doing about every half-second. So it's kind of like a low-grade movie and what it does is it picks up on oxygen consumption in your brain. It can tell what part of your brain is working, and what parts are not.

So, he makes you angry, and he sees that prefrontal cortex shut down. The amygdala fires up, and then he has you ask yourself one of these two questions, "Am I sure I have all the facts I need to be confident my story is true?" Or this other question, "Is there any other story that could fit this same set of facts?" Now, here's something about the amygdala. It may be fired up, but it can't handle language. It's not a language-processing area. It's all emotion.

So, when you ask yourself a sophisticated question like this, it demands, it forces your prefrontal cortex back into the game. So when they ask themselves this question, James Gross sees their prefrontal cortex fire up, and when it fires up it suppresses the amygdala. The emotions drop. He has these people hooked up to all sorts of galvanic skin response, to blood pressure cuffs, to heart rate monitors. He sees everything about those strong emotions drop.

In a moment, you've changed from being judge, jury, and executioner, to being curious scientist asking a question. What's really cool is it doesn't even matter what the answer to the question is. By the time you've answered the question, you're back in control of your story. The emotions have dropped and you're back to being this logical, reasonable, rational self.

Now, let me add one more component to this. There are what we call "clever stories". Clever stories are stories that allow you to feel good about your own bad behavior. We'll say that behind every clever story lies a sellout. So let me give an example. Let's say, I'm staying at a big hotel and I've gotten there late, and I've got all my luggage, and I've got all my training materials with me. So I'm transporting them all to the elevator, and the elevator is really slow. I'm waiting and waiting, and finally the elevator comes.

I get all my junk into the elevator. And just as the door is about to close I see some other guy, with just as much luggage as I have, coming across toward the elevator with his hand out, kind of wiggling his pinky finger like he wants me to hold the elevator door. So I look down and I see there's a button I could use to hold the door open and another button I could push to close the door. So I close the door and head up to my room, leaving him standing there at the closed elevator.

Now, for the first few floors, I feel kind of guilty about I've done to this guy. But by the time I get to my room, I've told myself a clever story that allows me to feel good about my own bad behavior. What would my clever story be? Well, maybe the clever story is, "This elevator wasn't big enough for his luggage. What was he thinking anyway? He must have been some kind of jerk to think he could put all his stuff in my elevator." Or maybe the story is, "I meant to hold it open, but I pushed the wrong button and it was too late for me to push it back."

Or maybe the story is, "Maybe this guy doesn't understand how elevators work. I mean, the quicker I go up, the sooner it'll come back down for him." Notice that, again, behind every clever story lies a sellout. Who have I sold out? I've sold out myself, my own sense of what's right and wrong. We'll say, when you exhibit bad behavior, when you've done something that's bad, either you admit that you did it or you tell yourself a clever story. If you don't do one, you'll do the other.

So what I want you to do with the tool for this is whenever emotions start to kick in, whenever you feel that anger, that frustration start to build, stop and challenge your story. Ask yourself, "Do I have all the facts I need to be sure this story is correct? Is there any other more positive story that could fit this same set of facts?" Avoid these self-serving, clever stories, because they just get you in trouble. They let you off the hook for behavior you really don't believe in.

So let me summarize the three big ideas from this little webinar. The first is the fact that you're talking doesn't mean you're solving the right problem. The tool here is to try CPR. Ask yourself, "What is the right problem? Is it the incident that's right in front of me, the content, or is it a pattern and that's why I'm concerned? Or is it that I'm making a relationship judgement, like I don't feel respected, or I don't think I can respect them? Or I don't think I can trust them? Or I'm worried about their competency?" What's the right problem for you to discuss?

Second, the way you start a conversation determines whether you like the way it ends. Start it by communicating a positive purpose, what your positive intent is. Let the person know you're a friend, not a foe. Then finally, if you feel those emotions kicking in, stop and challenge your story. Question your story and you can master your emotions. I think these three ideas can help you have the crucial conversations you need to have to get these problems out of your vault and into the real world in a way where you can solve them.