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spike bullet November 2015 ~ How To Get Things Done

Choosing the right path
Lessons learned
Crucial skills
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bulletNovember 2015 ~ How To Get Things Done

We have just been part of a local community drama and there are quite a few things that can be learned from that.

Without going into all the details, our community had an issue several years ago and one concerned neighbor mobilized the community to get involved and let our city know how we felt about some proposed development plans nearby.  As part of the discussion of that topic, several people mentioned that our main street wasn’t safe and they were wondering if anything could be done about.

The city took those safety concerns to heart and hired a traffic consultant to look at our main road.  Sure enough, the traffic consultant agreed with the residents – all intersections were unsafe and speed was an issue.  Over the past 3 years, plans were made, budgets committed and work started on changes to the main road a few months ago.

Fast forward to Oct 2015: some residents are not happy about the changes as the main road is no longer a speedway and has been transformed into a neighborhood street with many changes in how people navigate in and around the community.

Choosing the right path

Some people created a lot of drama around the topic by posting angry messages on a community Facebook page, attending city council meetings, demanding the city "do something," gathering signatures on a petition and making up stories about what was happening and why.  Most of the drama was caused by people who were not part of the original discussions 3 years ago for reasons that have never been clear, in spite of a concerted effort by the city to notify everyone in our community before plans were finalized.

Meanwhile, a few people contacted city staff directly and started working on possible ways to resolve the conflicts.

City staff invited one representative from each of the homeowner associations in the community to a meeting, along with the concerned citizen above who started it all and another resident who wants all the changes undone.  The meeting lasted more than 3 ½ hours.  Attendees shared their concerns.  The city staff were very open and anxious to listen to concerns.  They had been trying to understand what the real issues were, contrary to the "stories" that were shared by some people on social media.

The city had done their homework before the meeting and proposed some alternatives that the group discussed in great detail.  Consensus was reached by the end of the meeting on what the next steps should be.  Plans will be adjusted and outreach with the larger community will now occur.  The people who attended the meeting went from apparent enemies to supporters — simply by having a professional discussion with the right people in the right way.

Since time and money are involved and work is in progress, project changes will be dealt with as soon as possible and budgets may need to be adjusted.  There may need to be other smaller projects added later, rather than delaying a major project already under way.

Lessons learned

  1. When you have an issue with someone, talk to them directly.  For an issue with an organization, find out who can solve the issue and talk with them directly.  Talking to your friends and creating drama doesn’t help get things resolved; it only confuses the real issue.
  2. Be careful about the stories you create in your head about who and what and why.  Those only lead to distraction from the real issue.
  3. Look at the issues objectively and pay attention to facts, not rumors or fears or rampant emotions.
  4. Go into a conversation assuming that everyone is doing their very best and wants to resolve whatever issues arise.
  5. When you talk with someone directly, be clear about what you feel and why, and what you want to happen.  Really listen to the other person.  Try to understand their perspective and how they view the situation.
  6. As ideas and suggestions come forward, talk them through until you can agree on what is going on and what should be done.
  7. Be prepared to compromise.  Find something that works for everyone or almost everyone.  Life is about making choices and there are always differing perspectives — one person’s perfection is another person’s nightmare.  Some people may never agree.  If the majority can come to consensus, that is a better solution than a group split apart and fighting, when everyone’s goals are really the same – just coming from different perspectives.Pool of Shared Meaning

The Crucial Conversations process covers a set of skills to improve communications and resolve conflict.  One of the most important is what they call finding  the "pool of shared meaning" – meaning finding some basis for understanding and agreement, so that the discussion can start from there (see graphic).

They define the Pool of Shared Meaning as "Each of us enters a conversation with our own opinions, feeling, theories and experiences about the topic.  These make up our personal pool of meaning.  When two or more people enter a crucial conversation, we build a pool of shared meaning — the more we add of each person’s meaning, the more information is available to everyone involved and the better the decisions made" (from

Crucial skills

The major group of skills for Crucial Conversations includes:

  1. Get unstuck.  Understand what a "crucial conversation" is.  Recognize your own style under stress — do you go to Violence or Silence?  Understand your own responsibility for the conversation.  More at 
  2. Start with heart — more at 
  3. Learn to look — more at 
  4. Make it safe — more at 
  5. Master my stories — more at 
  6. State my path — more at  and 
  7. Explore other’s path — more at 
  8. Move to action — more at 

I have taken the full Crucial Conversations training a couple times and additional repeats of small segments, and taught a 10 week study group using the book.  This is the best communications training I have ever encountered.  It works for business situations and personal situations.  One of the organizations I worked for scheduled the Crucial Conversations training for every person in the organization (almost 2,800 people).  They found it was very effective in improving all types of business relationships: manager/employee, peer-to-peer and with the organization’s clients.

  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, 2nd Edition.   Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  McGraw-Hill 2011.   ISBN-13: 978-0071771320
  • Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations and Bad Behavior.  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  McGraw-Hill 2004.  ISBN-13: 978-0071446525
  • Transforming Your Dragons: Turning Personality Fear Patterns into Personal Power. Jose Stevens. Bear & Co; (July 1994) ISBN: 1879181177
  • The High Price of Manhood: A man's action plan for getting along better in the 21st century.  Michael Jay Anthony.  Lulu, 2015.  ISBN ISBN
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor., 2008  ISBN-13: 978-0-557-00377-8.  Website:  Tap into your own creativity and use  your full potential.  Learn how to see opportunities that others miss.   

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
    September 2007 ~ Crucial Conversations
    October 2012 ~ Crucial Conversations: Learn to Look
    August 1997 - Improving verbal communications
    June 2008 - the Art of Making Conversation
    August 1997 - Improving verbal communications
    April 2000 - The Art of Listening
July 2006 - Giving and Receiving Feedback
March 1999 - Dealing with Difficult People
    September 2003 - Dealing with Difficult People
July 2000 - Dealing with Co-Workers We Don't Like
    April 2007 - Tips for dealing with workplace jerks
    May 1999 - Respect in the Workplace
June 1999 - Personality Dragons
    July 1999 - Slaying the Personality Dragons
Seven Principles of Spirituality in the Workplace

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.  ... Tony Robbins

I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in. ... Bill Gates

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. ... Plato

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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Page updated: October 16, 2023      

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