Summers growing up in Oklahoma, I would often hear my Dad say, “come on Jennifer, let’s go have a weed-picking party.” Weed picking parties were not-so-fun experiences consisting of my dad and I crawling around in our yard, trying to avoid painful chiggers, as we attempted to pull out dandelion roots growing in our grass. I didn’t use a proper tool to dig out the roots. Instead, I would quickly pull off the leaves of the weed to make it look like I got the root. A beautiful looking yard would appease my dad and I would be free from weed-picking for a week or two until an even bigger party awaited me (the pesky roots had a party of their own growing and spreading beneath the surface).
Difficult conversations are like weed-picking parties. They generally aren’t something we look forward to; there are all kinds of emotions that can be triggered and make us cry, “ouch!” Eradicating the root cause can feel exhausting and avoidance of the issue can lead to further spread. When frustration sets in, there are helpful communication tools that can help us resolve the conversation to a productive end.
Unbundling with CPR
One such communication tool I teach in Crucial Conversations training is “unbundling with CPR.” To unbundle a complex, emotional conversation, it helps to break the root cause into parts. What is the content I am upset about? Is there a pattern I am experiencing? How am I feeling about the relationship?
What did the person do that is upsetting me? Is this a one-time occurrence or am I upset about a repeating pattern?
If it’s the pattern that is upsetting me, do I want to bring up the pattern or the action as the biggest source of my frustration?
How is the problem affecting
my relationship with
this person? Is trust or
competence in question?
Deciding which component is most frustrating and focusing the conversation on that component to begin the productive dialogue can alleviate conversation angst. We find ourselves addressing the root cause instead of picking at the leaves. The more practiced we become at communication tools like CPR, the quicker we are at identifying and pulling out the root that makes the dialogue a challenge.