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  • Writer's pictureDon Cruickshank

Power-Play Phrases Kill Conversations

When we engage in a crucial conversation we want to open the door to add to the pool of meaning and understanding.

By nature a crucial conversation has:

1) Opposing Opinions 2) Strong Emotions 3) High Stakes

One way of shutting down a crucial conversation is making it “unsafe” for the other person. This can come in the way of personal attacks or, what I refer to as “power play phrases.” I came up with the label of “power play phrases” about 5 years ago as I heard them in conversations that I listened to, and engaged in. Sometimes I was the user of the power play phrase, other times the target of it, and still, other times simply heard it being used towards someone else.

A power play phrase is a phrase that the other person cannot respond to without proving the (valid or invalid) point of the one using the power play phrase. When an individual uses a power play phrase we can be assured that they are no longer desiring to add to the pool of meaning and understanding and have moved to the position of winning the argument.

Some power play phrases that you may have heard are:

*"You always have to be right."

*"You always have to have the last word."

*"You can never just let it go."

Each power play phrase has two things in common.

First, it contains an absolute: “always,” “never,” it a very near absolute such as “constantly,” “rarely ever.”

Secondly, a power play phrase contains a claim that you cannon refute without it appearing that you proved the claim to be correct. Additionally, in some power play phrases if you do not refute the claim you also appear to prove the claim.

When we find ourselves in crucial conversations and we want to add to the pool of meaning we must stay away from power play phrases.

Don Cruickshank, MALM (Masters in Leadership & Management)

*Certified in Team Leadership

*Leading From Your Strengths Certified Trainer, Coach, Consultant

- Empowering individuals and organizations towards creating successful futures 

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