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Authors of National Bestseller, Crucial Confrontations, Share Four Essential Conversation Skills You Won't Learn From Watching the Presidential Debates.

NEW YORK, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- If clear speaking is your goal, don't look to the presidential candidates for inspiration. Authors of Crucial Confrontations, a new national bestseller from McGraw-Hill and VitalSmarts, say one of the best ways to screw up your marriage, undermine your influence at work and stall the performance of your organization is to follow the lead of our presidential contenders.

Watching the candidates at work, you might learn that effective confrontation requires you to make the other person look stupid or evil; you might notice them lead with accusations and judgments; or you might see them work on making their differences look as big as possible.

These are dangerously ineffective methods of influence -- bad habits that are common not only on the campaign trail, but also at home and at work, say authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler and Ron McMillan. Of course, we know it's not agreement and solutions the candidates are looking for when they debate. Therefore, those of us who need to improve communication skills should look to better role models.

The coauthors of Crucial Confrontations have spent the past 25 years watching such role models -- those who are masters at confronting others. These masters manage to confront those who have broken promises, violated expectations or behaved badly -- and do so in a way that leads to rapid change.

The authors' research shows that people with these skills live longer, get promoted more often and are twice as likely to stay happily married. Furthermore, organizations who consistently practice these skills gain 20-50 percent improvements in productivity.

The authors of Crucial Confrontations suggest the following four tips for becoming masters at confronting others effectively and safely:

1. Don't undermine the other person's character. The worst at crucial confrontations draw gross, rapid and negative judgments about those they confront. It seems their goal isn't to solve the problem, it's to impugn the character and competence of the other person. Bad move.

2. Begin with the facts. When starting a crucial confrontation, you don't begin by saying, "This president has made gross errors in judgment," or, "You can't lead by changing your opinion with every political poll." The best at crucial confrontations don't start with accusations and judgments. They start with facts-something you hear precious little of in the sound-bite oriented campaigns.

3. Determine what you agree on. One of the best ways to damage a confrontation is to focus on how you disagree. The best at influence are candid about disagreements, but they are equally careful to build a foundation of agreement. They look for common ground first and deal with disagreements second.

4. Minimize defensiveness. These incredibly effective communicators are scrupulous about managing defensiveness. In the debates it is a happy moment for a candidate when his opponent grimaces, fidgets -- or even better (as in the 2000 campaigns), lets out a heaving sigh. The skills described in Crucial Confrontations are all about how to minimize defensiveness -- how to see it when it happens, then intervene in ways that create safety for the other person. When people feel safe, you can confront them about almost anything. This skill is paramount in the toolkit of effective communicators. Watching the candidates you'd assume it was irrelevant.

Role models are powerful -- and our world needs nothing more than role models of effective crucial confrontations. Crucial Confrontations (McGraw-Hill / $16.95) is available at booksellers nationwide or at

CONTACT: Kae Tienstra, +1-610-395-6298,, or Donna Gould, +1-732-441-1519,, both for VitalSmarts

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 13, 2004
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