Emotions Running Strong? Start with the STATE Principle

"In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess I have always found it a wholesome diet." ~Winston Churchill

Have you been involved in any of these conversations or ones like these lately?

  • Talking to a colleague about a sensitive issue;
  • Giving your boss some feedback about her behavior;
  • Ending a relationship;
  • Talking with a rebellious teenager;
  • Confronting a loved one about an issue;
  • Asking a friend to stop a certain behavior.

Many years ago I was certified to lead groups in the Crucial Conversations methodology. A crucial conversation is defined as a conversation between two or more people where opinions vary, emotions run strong, and stakes are high.

I have learned a lot about how to handle myself (after all, that’s all I can change) in a crucial conversation. Although I still slip and slide when having these types of conversations, I feel more confident and pleased with the way I handle these situations. I simply create a mutual purpose and work hard to maintain mutual respect.

If you are in a relationship where a crucial conversation needs to take place, make sure your goal is to learn rather than to be right. If this is true, you will be more willing to hear others views and be able to effectively use a tool called STATE.

  • Share Your Facts: Facts are verifiable and observable. They cannot be disputed. Gathering facts is crucial prior to holding this conversation.
  • Tell Your Story: These are the facts plus the conclusion you have drawn from the facts. In other words, this is the story you make up; what you are beginning to conclude. You make up your stories about the facts. This is the tricky part because even if your story is true, the other person can become defensive. Be sure to let the other person know that this is your interpretation and then...
  • Ask for the Other Person's Paths: Simply ask them what they believe the facts are and encourage them to share their stories, e.g., "Is this what's going on here?" or "What is your interpretation of this?"

The above three skills tell you "what" to do. The following two tell you "how" to do it.

  • Talk Tentatively: Be curious instead of accusatory. Tell your story as a story and not a fact and then state "I was wondering why..." or "Perhaps you were unaware..." or "Is that what's going on here?"
  • Encourage Testing: Encourage others to share their stories and opposing views. Model an environment of safety and disagreements by showing you are open to it. State, "Perhaps I'm wrong here." or "I know there are at least two sides to this story. Could we hear differing views now?"

If you use the above, it can soften your approach to what may be a very crucial conversation. I am not asking you to let go of what you believe, I am only asking you to be open to finding what is true.

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