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How to Keep Your Cool When Emotions and Stakes Are High

Have you ever felt ambushed during a business meeting? Or have you either clammed up or lashed out at a boss when unexpected criticisms come your way during a performance review? If so, chances are you were in a "Crucial Conversation." And you blew it.

Kerry Patterson, a New York Times bestselling writer and co-author of "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High," says crucial conversations happen on a near daily basis both at work and at home. The trick, as Patterson tells Aaron and Wendy on this week's episode of Salary Talk, is to recognize them when they happen and act accordingly.

Too many people automatically fall into a "Fight or Flight" mentality, Patterson says. When you feel like you're under attack, adrenaline is released into your bloodstream and the likelihood of illogical and rash behavior increases exponentially. This can lead to "Silence or Violence," which is the tendency to either clam up or explode on the other person. Neither of which is advisable, Patterson says.

So how do you avoid falling into this trap?

Patterson talks about first recognizing that a crucial conversation is occurring, and then taking stock of the situation. Emotions must be controlled and the other person must be made to feel he/she is in a safe environment in which healthy discussion is encouraged. If the conversation does start down a bad road, Patterson has tips for getting back on course by establishing common ground and a mutual purpose.

Whether it's talking about a raise/promotion with your boss or making sure a brainstorming session doesn't end in fruitless finger-pointing, Patterson's tips regarding crucial conversations are must-listen material.

As a bonus, if you listen until the end you can hear Aaron and Wendy argue about whether NFL football is more of a crucial conversation than comic books. Feel free to take sides on that debate by tweeting us or leaving a comment on our Facebook page.


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Connect with Today's Guest: Discover more about Kerry Patterson. You can purchase a copy of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High or visit the Crucial Conversations website and Twitter profile.