A set of “power listening” skills that help build safety and encourage the other person to share his or her meaning. AMPP stands for Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, and Prime.


A person who influences you to start a bad habit and/or stop a good one.

Accountability Discussion

A face-to-face accountability discussion where someone has disappointed you, and you talk to him or her directly. When handled well, the problem is resolved and the relationship benefits.

Add New Friends

Find those people who either share your goal or are interested in offering you support.

Build Fences

Intractable rules and decisive actions that make it easier for you to stand up to avoid the most dangerous, tempting places in your environment.


The three types of conversations that can be held around a particular issue: Content (discussing the issue itself), Pattern (discussing the problem that the issue keeps recurring), and Relationship (discussing the fact that the issue is affecting your overall relationship with the other person).

Clever Story

A story we tell ourselves when we’re disappointed, threatened, or at risk. The three types of stories we often tell ourselves are Victim Stories, Villain Stories, and Helpless Stories.

Command Decision

A decision in which one person decides with no involvement from others.

Consensus Decision

A decision in which everyone must agree to support the decision.

Consult Decision

A decision in which everyone gives input, then a subset of one or more makes the decision.

Contrasting Statement

A tool to address predictable misunderstandings that could put safety at risk. This is done by first, imagining what others may erroneously conclude and then immediately explaining that this is what you don’t mean, followed by your contrasting point—what you do mean.

Control Your Space

The sixth and final source of influence that specifically addresses structural ability and surrounding yourself with a supportive physical environment.

Crucial Conversation

A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

Crucial Moment

The point in time where the right behavior, if enacted, leads to the results you want.


A cue is the first part of The Habit Loop. The cue for a habit can be anything that triggers the habit. Cues most generally fall under the following categories: a location, a time of day, other people, an emotional state, an object, or an immediately preceding action.

Default Future

The life you’ll live if you continue to behave as you currently are.

Deliberate Practice

Identifying and practicing the skills that will help you stop doing the wrong thing and start doing the right thing.

Describe the Gap

Bringing up a problem involving a disappointment by describing the gap between what you expected and what actually took place.

Do What You Can’t

The second of six sources influence that specifically addresses personal ability and learning new skills required to create and sustain change.

Explore Others’ Paths

A skill to help others stay in dialogue when you notice them moving to silence or violence. Encourage them to explore their entire Path to Action (see STATE My Path for more details on how to do this).

Fool’s Choice

These are false dilemmas that suggest we face only two options (both of them bad), when in fact we face several choices—some of them good. We suffer from “Or” Thinking.


A person who influences you to stop a bad habit and/or start a good one.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The automatic assumption we often make that the other person’s motives are bad. This can happen when someone says or does something we think is harmful or threatening. We immediately attribute bad motive—we tell a villain story. For example, “They are evil or selfish; they do bad things because they enjoy it.”

Helpless Story

A story we tell ourselves when we’re disappointed, threatened, or at risk. When we tell ourselves a helpless story, we make ourselves out to be powerless to do anything healthy or helpful. We convince ourselves that there are no healthy alternatives for dealing with our predicament.

Invert the Economy

The fifth of six sources of influence that specifically addresses structural motivation and rewarding yourself for change as well as punishing yourself for bad behavior.

Learn to Look

When a conversation turns crucial, we either miss or misinterpret the early warning signs. We want to be able to step out of the content of the conversation and learn to look for signs that a conversation has become crucial and that safety is at risk so we can get back to dialogue more quickly.

Left-Hand Column

Chris Argyris, a noted behavioral psychologist, came up with the idea that people place their thoughts and feelings in one of two places: their Right-Hand Column or their Left-Hand Column. The Right-Hand Column is what we do say in the conversation. The Left-Hand Column includes what we think or feel but don’t say—the meaning we withhold from the conversation.

Loss Aversion

A person’s tendency to place a higher premium on a loss than a gain.

Love What You Hate

The first of six sources of influence that specifically addresses personal motivation and making the right choices pleasurable.

Manage Distance

A principle that help us control the emotions that drive our actions. We do this by challenging the stories we tell ourselves—we ask questions. One such question is “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person act this way?” Posing the question is NOT making an assumption that all people are reasonable, rational, and decent; rather, posing the question is an effort to consider other possibilities. This increases the probability of getting what we really want.

Master My Stories

A skill taught in Crucial Conversations that involves examining the thinking behind your negative emotions—annoyance, anger, resentment, fear, etc.—instead of acting from your negative emotions.

Move to Action

A skill to overcome the barriers to change. First, decide up front which form of decision making you’ll be using (Command, Consult, Vote, or Consensus). Then create and agree on a specific plan. Document Who does What by When and how you’ll Follow Up (WWWF).

Mutual Purpose

Creating safety by assuring others that you care about their best interests and goals. More often than not, your goals will be compatible, but the strategies you developed to meet these goals are opposing.

Mutual Respect

Creating safety by assuring others that you care about and respect them, and that your goal is to solve problems and make things better for both of you.

Natural Consequences

Consequences that occur independent of outside action, and require no authority or power.

Personal Motivation Statement

A simple but powerful personal statement that reiterates a new perspective and motive for changing your behavior.

Pool of Shared Meaning

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.

Redefine Normal

Avoid making external comparisons and using the words “everybody” and “normal” to justify your unhealthy behavior. Instead, ask yourself who you want to be and how you want to live and feel.


A reward is part of The Habit Loop and it’s what we experience after the routine. It’s not necessarily the outcome that follows a routine, but rather the fulfillment of some psychological craving, which may or may not be linked to outcomes. A reward reinforces behavior, making it more likely that you will do it again in the future. Both good and bad habits have rewards.

Reward Small Wins

Instead of attaching rewards to your ultimate goal, set small action-oriented goals and reward yourself when you meet one of them.


A habit’s routine is the most obvious element in The Habit Loop: it’s the behavior you habitually do.


A set of skills that help you share difficult feedback or risky meaning. STATE stands for Share your facts, Tell your story, Ask for others’ paths, Talk tentatively, and Encourage testing.


Establishing an atmosphere where the other person in a conversation feels comfortable and free to talk about or listen to any topic, no matter how sensitive it may be.

Silence vs. Violence

The communication styles we revert to when we don’t feel safe in open dialogue. Silence is purposely withholding meaning from the shared pool; it ranges from playing verbal games to avoiding a person entirely. Violence is trying to compel others toward your point of view using tactics like controlling, labeling, and attacking.

Six Sources of Influence

The six major categories of influences that drive people to do the things they do are: Personal Motivation, Personal Ability, Social Motivation, Social Ability, Structural Motivation, and Structural Ability.

Skill Scan

Identify the skills you need to learn and the skills you already possess that will help you implement your change plan and meet your goals.

Start with Heart

The first principle of good dialogue is that healthy dialogue starts with your own motives. Start With Heart means to start with the right motives and stay focused on what you really want throughout the conversation.

Style Under Stress

This is the communication style you naturally revert to when crucial conversations start getting tense. Being aware of your own Style Under Stress (whether it’s silence, violence, or dialogue) will help you guard against your worst tendencies and either catch problems early or avoid them altogether.

The Habit Loop

The Habit Loop is a neurological loop that governs any habit. The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones.

The Lag

The Lag is the period of time between when we need to change and when we actually change. Living in the lag often feels like being stuck.

Turn Accomplices Into Friends

The third and fourth of six sources of influence that specifically addresses social motivation and social ability. These sources involve surrounding yourself with people who encourage positive change (friends) instead of discouraging your improvement (accomplices).

Turn Bad Days Into Good Data

The ability to learn from your mistakes and adjust your change plan as you learn about additional sources of influence that work against you.

Victim Story

A story we tell ourselves when we’re disappointed, threatened, or at risk. When we tell ourselves a victim story, we exaggerate our own innocence. We intentionally ignore the role we have played in the problem and tell our story in a way that avoids whatever we have done (or neglected to do) that might have contributed to the problem.

Villain Story

A story we tell ourselves when we’re disappointed, threatened, or at risk. When we tell ourselves a villain story, we overemphasize the other person’s guilt. We automatically assume the worst possible motives while ignoring any possible good or neutral intentions a person may have.

Vital Behavior

A high-leverage action that, if routinely enacted, will lead to the results you want.

Vote Decision

A decision in which all have a voice, but the majority rules.


Once you’ve diagnosed the root cause of a problem, it’s time to move to action and resolve it. Do this by creating and agreeing on a specific plan. Determine WWWF: Who does What by When and how you’ll Follow up.

What and If

The first principle of Crucial Accountability™: problems come at us so rapidly and unannounced that we’re often caught by surprise. As a result, we move too quickly or become emotional and choose the wrong problem to address. To break this habit, we have to slow down, unbundle the problem into its components, and then choose What and If (what problem we’ll address, and if we should bring it up).

Willpower Trap

The incorrect assumption that the only reason (among many possible reasons) we fail to make good choices is our lack of willpower.

Work On Me First

This principle is based on the fact that the only person you can directly control is yourself. When you focus on improving your interpersonal communication skills before trying to correct another’s, you set the stage for more effective Crucial Conversations.

“And” Thinking

“And” Thinking helps us avoid making a Fool’s Choice. Instead of feeling confined to choose one alternative OR avoid its bad consequences, ask yourself how you can achieve one AND avoid the other.

“Or” Thinking

”Or” thinking is thinking that gets us into the rut of a “Fool’s Choice” (see “And” Thinking). We believe we can only achieve one of two good outcomes, and there will be negative consequences either way (e.g., we can either be honest OR we can be kind).