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Posted June 7, 2021

Crucial conversation process


How are your crucial conversation skills? The ability to have an effective crucial conversation is one factor that sets the best leaders apart in the modern workplace. We invited Barbara Hauser, owner of Barbara Hauser Associates and a crucial conversations master trainer and senior consultant at VitalSmarts, to join us on Benefits Buzz to share her insight on crucial conversations. Watch our episode below or keep reading for more. 

Listen now or subscribe!

What is a crucial conversation? 

A lot of conversations can qualify as crucial conversations. You may have had a crucial conversation already today and not even realized you were having one. 

“We’re all in conversations every day about a multitude of things,” Hauser said. “Now we know better than ever that they can be remote. They can be written. … What we’ve learned over the years is not all conversations have the same impact. What we think of as crucial conversations are those conversations that matter.”

Hauser added that crucial conversations make a difference in the outcomes of things we care about or affect relationships. 

“When the stakes are high, “Hauser said, “the conversations are pretty crucial.”

What are some common examples? 

Hauser said we don’t see the opportunity to have certain crucial conversations because “we’re numb to them. Often we’ve just learned to cope with the situation and don’t think it can get any better.” 

“It might come up three times in one sitting with my mother-in-law,” she added with a laugh. 

Some common topics for crucial conversations that we really didn’t see a decade or two ago are: 

  • Conversations about race
  • Conversations where not all voices are heard
  • Conversations about the need to belong – or being excluded

“It runs the gamut,” Hauser said. “It includes just about everything that impacts our productivity.”

What are three steps to improve conversations? 

Hauser emphasizes the importance of awareness of others and what’s important to them. Avoiding conversations on a tough subject can often lead to bigger issues.

She encourages three steps when approaching crucial conversations: share, tell, ask. 

  • Share: “First thing I want to do is share my eyes. Here’s what I’ve seen.”
  • Tell: “Say what the concern is.”
  • Ask: “Ask the other person to come along with you. Invite them to dialogue”

Would you like to learn more about crucial conversations? Check out Hauser’s work at, where you can subscribe to the Crucial Skills newsletter

The information in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, you should consult your own counsel.


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