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INTRODUCTION

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

—AMBROSE BIERCE

Now that you know what you want to talk about, it's time to turn to the how of dialogue. How do you encourage the flow of meaning when you're in the thrall of strong emotions talking about things that matter deeply to you with those who disagree vehemently? Given that most people's style is based on longstanding habits, it'll probably require a lot of effort.

The truth is, people can change. In fact, we've taught these conversation skills to millions around the world and have seen dramatic improvements in results and relationships. But it requires work. You can't simply highlight an inspiring paragraph in a book and walk away changed. Instead, you'll need to start by taking a long, hard look at yourself.

That's why Start with Heart is the foundation of dialogue. Change begins with your heart. Our bias is the opposite. Our bodies are designed to gather data about others, not ourselves. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the eye sees everything but itself. We can hear how others are overstating their points. We can see how they're clenching their fists and spraying spittle while they harangue us. What we fail to notice is our own eye roll, head shake, and sneer.

One of the most important lessons we've learned from those who do their best during crucial moments is that it all begins with me. The first thing that degenerates during a Crucial Conversation is not your behavior; it's your motive. And we can rarely see it happening. The first step to dialogue is to get your heart right.

WORK ON ME FIRST, US SECOND

Let's start with a true story. Two young sisters, Aislinn and Cara, and their father scurry into their hotel room after spending a hot afternoon at Disneyland. Given the repressive heat, the girls have consumed enough soda to irrigate a small farm. As the two bursting kids enter their room, they have but one thought—to head for the head.

Since the bathroom is a one-holer, it isn't long until a fight breaks out. The desperate children start arguing, pushing, and name-calling as they dance around the tiny bathroom. Eventually Aislinn calls out to her father for help.

"Dad, I got here first!"

"I know, but I need to go worse!" says Cara.

"How do you know? You're not in my body. I didn't even go before we left this morning!"

"You're so selfish."

Dad, in a naïve attempt to teach them to solve their own problems, proposes a plan: "Girls, I'm not going to solve this for you. You can stay in the bathroom and figure out who goes ...

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