Do you pout, shout, spout, flout or act out when you have a difficult discussion with someone? Do you tend to walk away or flail away when the robot in your head starts digitally screaming, “danger, danger”? Are you aware of the subtle shifts in a conversation when things become unsafe, either for you or the other person?

The authors of the book, Crucial Conversations, tell us that “the further you stray off track (things become unsafe), the harder it will be to return and the higher the costs”. It’s like an avalanche of emotion that starts with a slight tick of the eye and in time, begins to create random and fierce destruction in its path. “The problem is not the content of your message but the condition of your conversation”.

When a conversation turns for the worst, just before you come OUT, do something to make it safe for everyone in the room. Use phrases like, “I’m sorry for ____________,” “Let me back up a minute,” “That is not what I meant to say,” “That came out all wrong”. If it’s bad enough, you might want to use all of those in quick succession.

Make a commitment to be a conversational crossing guard – make it safe.