How to Have Crucial Conversations

Adapted from the book: The Talent Advantage by Dr. Alan Weiss and Dr. Nancy MacKay, published by Wiley.

All leaders must learn how to master crucial conversations to enhance their ability to influence the people around them.

What is a crucial conversation?

  • Daily conversations about tough issues between two or more people where: (1) Stakes are high; (2) Opinions differ; and (3) Emotions run high
  • Use a face-to-face approach versus email and voicemail


The following four strategies will help you master crucial conversations.

  1. Focus on achieving your ideal outcomes and consider your options. 
    • Always ask yourself – what is my ideal outcome?
    • Options include: confront, collaborate, accommodate, avoid
  2. Master your emotions and minimize negative self talk.
    • Step 1: How am I feeling? If you are in a negative emotional state, don’t talk to another human being
    • Step 2: Change your physiology
    • Step 3: Reframe the situation
  3. Influence alpha males and don’t take things personally.
    Alpha male attributes: self-confident and opinionated; highly intelligent; action oriented; high performance expectations; highly disciplined; unemotional (HBR Coaching the Alpha Male)
    • Step into your strengths and go after what you want
    • Continue to build your own skills, behaviours and experience
  4. Celebrate and learn from failures and successes and move on.
    • Do the best you can and move on