My guest today is Emily Gregory, chief growth officer at Crucial Learning

She is also the co-author of Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When the Stakes are High.

You may have read this book at some point in your career, but there’s a third edition now available. In this episode, Emily and I talk about her work and how she is helping people live better lives through crucial conversations. We also talk about how the tools in the book can help you fix work and even yourself.

For 15 years, Emily has been helping people develop the skills to help them lead better lives— both in the workplace and outside of it. She has served in multiple roles at Crucial Learning, but her true passion is teaching and training others. 

So if you’re interested in being a better communicator, creating better relationships, and expanding the pool of meaning between you and someone of a differing opinion, then this conversation is for you.

Punk Rock HR is proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is a B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head over to

What Are Crucial Conversations?

We’ve all had crucial conversations at different points in our careers, but sometimes we are unsure how to define them precisely. Emily shares that a crucial conversation consists of three elements:

  • High stakes. This phrase can be relative. Different things matter to different people, so while there isn’t an objective truth, you can decide what “high stakes” mean for you. 
  • Strong emotions. We are emotional beings. When we enter into crucial conversations, our emotions reflect that because communication matters to us
  • Differing opinions. Everyone has a different perspective regarding crucial conversations. The trick is to learn how to navigate through them to find some common ground.

“There is a lot of difference right now and a lot of polarization. I actually think we’re starting to pull away from others that think differently than we do,” Emily says.

This environment has caused Emily’s passion for crucial conversations to intensify because they are critical to expanding our knowledge and aiding our growth. “At its heart, crucial conversations are sort of based on this foundational idea that it is possible to have a conversation and a relationship with someone who thinks differently than you do,” she says.

Through crucial conversations, we can still connect—even with people who have differing opinions from our own.

How to Initiate Crucial Conversations

To start these crucial conversations, you first have to identify when to have them. Many people shy away from this. Instead, they go through life feeling frustrated, upset, and angry. They question why they feel stuck because they don’t see that a crucial conversation can help them move past those feelings. 

The next step is working on yourself—something many of us have been focusing on since the pandemic began two years ago. “We actually spend a lot of time in crucial conversations working on ourselves first, before we show up to the conversation,” Emily says. 

This step can be frustrating and uncomfortable because we often want someone to tell us how to have these conversations. But instead, we should clarify our intent, and what we’re bringing to the conversation we plan to have.

Initiating the conversation—whether with yourself or someone else—isn’t a sprint. It’s a move that we make with intention.

“I think sometimes we rush into, “I need to have a conversation. I’m going to have a conversation,” she says. “And we don’t take the time to really think about, ‘What am I trying to communicate? What tone do I want to set?’ And again, really, ‘What do I want for that other person coming out of the conversation?’”

The Outcomes of Crucial Conversations

Many outcomes can happen in the aftermath of crucial conversations. Whether it’s agreeing to move forward in a joined way, finding productive solutions or still in a dispute, crucial conversations aren’t just a “one and done” talk—it’s a dialogue.

“I don’t think very many conversations exist as just single discreet entities. They’re part of, for most of us, part of ongoing relationships that ebb flow and their agreements and disagreements and coming and going,” Emily says. 

No matter the outcome, crucial conversations are always continuous and often don’t end as most people may think.

Ultimately, it’s not about getting everyone to agree with you but what you can learn from the conversation, what you can carry with you, and what you implement at the moment.

That’s called an “acceptable outcome,” Emily says. “What I have found is if we walk away in disagreement, after a crucial conversation, it is still fundamentally different than where we started in disagreement.”

Even if you leave a crucial conversation still in disagreement, you can walk away with a newfound respect for that person, knowing that they at least listened.

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People in This Episode

Full Transcript

Laurie Ruettimann:

This episode of Punk Rock HR is sponsored by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to

Hey everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. Welcome back to Punk Rock HR. My guest today is Emily Gregory. She’s the co-author of, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When the Stakes are High. You may have heard of Crucial Conversations. You may have even read this book at some point in your career, but guess what? There’s a third edition out. And Emily is on the podcast today to talk about her work, really helping leaders and people live better lives and be better leaders. And how the tools in this book can absolutely help you to fix work and maybe even fix yourself.

So if you’re interested in being a better communicator, having better relationships, expanding the pool of meaning between you and someone who may have a different opinion than you, well, sit back and enjoy conversation with Emily Gregory. Hey Emily, welcome to the podcast.

Emily Gregory:

Hi, Laurie, it’s so great to be here with you.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I’m pleased to have you, and before we get started, could you do me the favor of telling everybody who you are and what you’re all about?

Emily Gregory:

So I’m Emily Gregory, and I work at a company called Crucial Learning. And we are all about trying to give people in the workplace and outside of the workplace skills that will really help them lead better lives. So I’ve been doing this for about 15 years. I’ve had lots of different roles at Crucial Learning, but at heart, I’m mostly a trainer and a teacher. And most recently, I got to translate that love of mine and passion for teaching and training into authoring and co-authoring a book called Crucial Conversations, which is really about how we try and help people have better conversations.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, Crucial Conversations has been a book that’s been in the American lexicon for quite some time, and it’s also evolved to meet today’s changing needs in the workplace in relationships. So can you tell us what is a crucial conversation?

Emily Gregory:

I think probably a crucial conversation; it’s one of those things that you’re like, “I know it when I’m in it, but I’m not quite sure how to define.” Right? We don’t always have the vocabulary around it. We define a crucial conversation as any conversation that has these three elements.

First, high stakes. It matters, and high is a relative term. You get to decide what matters to you, right? So it’s not like there’s some objective truth about what is and is not high stakes, but it’s high stakes to you. It matters. Second, strong emotions. We tend to bring those emotions to our conversations because it matters to us. So our emotions come into play and third differing opinions, right? We have different perspectives in a crucial conversation, and we’re trying to navigate our way through those. So that’s sort of the trifecta of a crucial conversation.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, it feels like every conversation in this day and age could be crucial. Is that crazy of me to say?

Emily Gregory:

No. I think it feels like that for so many of us. And I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. One, there is a lot of difference right now and a lot of polarization. I actually think we’re starting to pull away from others that think differently than we do. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m actually so passionate about crucial conversations right now because I think at its heart. We’ll go into what crucial conversations teaches and skills and all of that. Still, at its heart, crucial conversations are sort of based on this foundational idea that it is possible to have a conversation and a relationship with someone who thinks differently than you do.

And sometimes I worry that right now, people kind of have forgotten that. And they think, “If we don’t think alike, we can’t possibly be friends. We can’t talk about things. We can’t connect because we have differences.” But we’re losing so much when we think that way. And so what crucial conversations are about is, “Yeah, of course, there are differences, but we can still talk. We can still connect. We can still relate in the face of differences.”

Laurie Ruettimann:

You said something interesting. You said people have lost the ability to have crucial conversations. And I just wonder, were we ever really equipped in the first place because I don’t feel like I was born coming out of the womb fully prepared to talk to anybody about anything difficult. That’s really, really hard. So is it that we’re being pulled apart or that we’ve never been skilled up?

Emily Gregory:

That’s a great insight. And I think there’s probably some truth to both of that. So, first of all, it’s not even just about being skilled up. I think our human evolution and our neurophysiology are working against us. The reality is when we face a crucial conversation when someone thinks differently, and the stakes are high, we perceive that as a verbal threat, a threat to our ideas, a threat to our personhood. We perceive that verbal threat and our bodies react to it the same way that we’ve been hardwired through thousands of years of evolution to react to a physical threat, right?

So adrenaline pumps in, and we start going, and we get into that fight or flight response. And literally, when that happens, the blood drains from the neocortex, the higher thinking centers, and it goes to our brain stem and our major muscle groups so that we can flee or fight back. And that’s not helpful in a crucial conversation.

So we do have that neurophysiology that’s working against us. And then I think the question of skills, and again, whether it’s like a loss or just we’ve always been this way, is also really interesting. So about 15 years ago, I read a study that I thought was really interesting about where people learn their interpersonal communication skills. Number one place? Your family at home, which for some of us, you may have won the lottery and your parents, the adults that lived in your home and raised you, they were great communicators, and they did it in front of you, and they modeled it. And you’re like, “This is just how we do things.” A lot of us didn’t. My parents are divorced. God bless them. And there was a lot of conflict there. So parents were the first ones at home.

Then at school. And I have small children in the elementary school set right now. And it’s crazy to hear the kinds of conversations and interactions that they’re negotiating with their peers and on the playground and the power structures and the bullying. And I don’t think they’re learning a lot about effective conversation.

And then the third place we learned it, and again, 15 years ago, so let’s just hold on this, but was television, right? We were learning it from television, which is so interesting because if you think about what television is designed to do. I think now I would probably translate this to a lot of social media. It’s designed to create an emotional reaction. I want to hook you. I want you to keep watching. I want to create conflict so that I can resolve it. I want to make a laugh line, probably at someone’s expense. And so that’s where we’re learning to communicate interpersonally.

Now I think some of those factors have changed over time. And my personal opinion is probably in ways that leave us less skilled than we used to be. But I think it’s a great point to say, and there’s both a matter of, again, just our base physiology. And then also, what skills do we bring to it and what skills are we missing, and where are we getting those?

Laurie Ruettimann:

So we’ve got all of these factors that drive the complexities of how to have a conversation when we identify a need in our own lives to have a crucial conversation, whether it’s at work or with a significant other, or even just a neighbor, how do we get started? Where do we begin?

Emily Gregory:

Actually, you get started by identifying, which some people don’t. We’re going through life, and we’re so frustrated, and we’re upset, and we’re angry, and we’re like, “This isn’t what I wanted.” And we just feel stuck. And sometimes, we don’t see that connection to being stuck in a conversation that we’re either not having or not having very well. We just think we’re stuck. So being able to identify, “There’s a conversation here that’s going to help me get unstuck.” That is the first step.

The next one, I would say, we actually spend a lot of time in crucial conversations working on ourselves first before we show up to the conversation. And that can be frustrating because people are like, “Just tell me how to say it.” And I’m like, “I can’t tell you how to say it until we actually know what it is. What is it for you?” So focusing on, “What is it I really want here and what do I want, not just for me, but what do I want for the other person? What do I want for our relationship? What do I want for this conversation?” And getting really clear on our intent and what we’re bringing to the conversation is actually the place to get started.

I think sometimes we rush into, “I need to have a conversation. I’m going to have a conversation.” And we don’t take the time to really think about, “What am I trying to communicate? What tone do I want to set?” And again, really, “What do I want for that other person coming out of the conversation?”

Laurie Ruettimann:

That’s so interesting because I think many of us have been taught to begin with the end in mind. And so we think if we show up to a conversation and we know how we want to fix it, we’ve actually done the work. I’m having a conflict with my neighbor. I don’t like the fact that they’re putting up a fence. I want that fence to be taken down or made more compliant. So I’m going to rush over there and have a conversation. It’s going to be difficult, but we’re going to fix the fence. And what I hear from you is that that’s actually counterproductive and even a little counterintuitive in the crucial conversations method?

Emily Gregory:

I think it really can be. And first of all, it’s so much respect for Dr. Covey and The 7 Habits and Beginning With The End in Mind. I tried to bring that into my life significantly, and have so much good has come out of my interactions with his work. But I do think there’s a difference here about what our goal is in a conversation. A crucial conversation, the goal of a conversation is to say, “I want to get as much meaning…” Into sort of a… If you think about it as a central pool of meaning, between me and you, there’s this pool. And I need to get as much meaning into that pool as I can because when I can expand that pool, we are going to make better decisions. We’re going to be more committed. We’re going to be more connected because we’ve expanded, and we’ve gotten all the meaning in.

That’s really different than, “I’m having a crucial conversation to get my way. To get the other person to say yes, to get the fence fixed.” I think you have to look back and say, “What is the goal of a crucial conversation?” It’s to say, “I think we’re going to do better if we can connect. I think we’re going to do better if we can get different perspectives and different meaning to be shared.” And that’s a different kind of conversation than, say, getting to yes would be… It’s not negotiation, right? That’s not what it is.

So yeah, I would say it’s not about beginning with the end in mind. It is beginning maybe with your why in mind, right? Why am I here? Why do I think this conversation is important? Why do I think this other person is worthy of a conversation and worthy of respect? What am I bringing to that?

Laurie Ruettimann:

But you know, Emily, that requires patience, right? Thinking about the why of somebody or the what motivates them or what do they need so that they can do great work. And I think about the world that we’re in right now, and things are sped up. They’re faster. They’re also more fragmented. And then, in the work environment, you throw in remote work or hybrid work, or multiple teams and different ways to chat. And it just gets so convoluted and also rushed. And there’s not the luxury of time, but you know, I’m thinking of the old adage since we’re talking about Covey here and all the great thinkers, “You have to slow down to speed up.” And that’s what I love about crucial conversations because in slowing down and expanding that pool of meaning, you’re going to get to where you need to go maybe a little bit faster. I don’t know. Am I onto something here?

Emily Gregory:

Yeah. I absolutely think so. Slow is going to get you there in the end. Slow is faster. Slow down to speed up. I also think about it is sometimes people say like, “I don’t have time to have a crucial conversation. I don’t have time to do this.” But it’s interesting how much time we waste avoiding a crucial conversation. So we did a study, and this was a couple of years ago. It was pre-pandemic. It would be interesting to do it again, called Costly Conversations. And what people reported, we had about 1500 people report into us, and what they reported is that on average, an avoided conversation costs about $25,000 and eight hours like, “I didn’t speak up. We made a bad decision. It was a waste of money.” But also just the time.

You think about the time people spend ruminating about their problems, and they’re problem people. I think actually, maybe you should just prepare to have a conversation, as you said, it takes time. It does take time. I don’t want to discount that, but I think it’s time we have, and we’re choosing to use it in different ways that maybe aren’t as helpful for us.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So we get to the point where we recognize we need a crucial conversation, and we start to prepare internally and then we want to engage someone in that conversation. How does that even go down these days? How do we do that?

Emily Gregory:

You know, surprisingly, pretty much the same way we used to do it. It’s interesting. Especially when you say these days, right? So many of us are working in hybrid and virtual and remote in ways that we didn’t used to. And I feel like, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of proliferation of tips for virtual conversations. As if somehow human beings were totally different than we were two days before when we were face to face.

Now, I don’t want to say that there’s not anything different about it, but actually at its base, I think the way that you create an effective conversation hasn’t changed, and you can do it both virtually and in person, and this is what I mean by it. If you go back to that, what I was talking about around neurophysiology and people feel threatened, and that’s why they react badly. The solution is there. It’s that I’ve got to diffuse that threat for people, both for myself and others, to create that psychological safety. Psychological safety, I feel like’s been a bit of a buzzword in the last four or five years, but the first version of Crucial Conversations that came out in 2001, we called it, Make it Safe. It was about making it safe for people. And the way that you do that is actually just by sharing your good intent.

So it goes back to getting a good intent and then sharing it. There’s a great scholar. I love him. His name’s David Bohm, and he wrote a book called, On Dialogue and in that he says, “In the absence of data, people will make it up in the worst possible way.” And I think that’s what happens for us. When we don’t know what’s someone’s intent is towards us, when we don’t know why they’re bringing that crucial conversation to us, we’re, of course, going to be on guard and react a little defensively because we don’t know what’s coming at us.

So the surest way to diffuse that is to share that, “Here’s what my good intent is.” Now here is the difference about sort of, I would say, these days of the new remote work and hybrid compared to when we were more together. A lot of our intent, our good intent, can be communicated through body language, and that is sometimes missing in this remote world. So it just means you have to be more explicit about what your good intent is, but it hasn’t fundamentally shifted what creates safety for people.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So we have this conversation, right? We express our good intent. We talk about the things that are important to us. What’s the role of listening in a crucial conversation?

Emily Gregory:

Yeah. Oh, such a great question. Because a conversation, absolutely. I always say it needs to be a dialogue, not a monologue, right?

Laurie Ruettimann:

Not in my house. Come on now.

Emily Gregory:

So the role of listening is huge, right? And again, I think it goes back to it really aligns. If you intend to understand them, you will listen. You’ll want to listen. And again, I feel like he’s in here with us, Dr. Covey, but seek first to understand and then to be understood. In crucial conversations, we talk about, “Hey, you need everyone’s meaning.” Which means you’ve got to listen to others as they come in and not just listen but really encourage. I think sometimes it takes some active encouragement from people to understand that you really want to hear them.

The other thing I would just say about listening that I think is so crucial is we have a tendency sometimes to listen for differences or listen in a way that I can disprove you, right? So I’m going to listen really hard so I can pick your argument apart and tell you why I’m right. And I think we’re more successful when we can, and I’m not saying that we have to just agree. We don’t just agree with everyone, right? That’s not what a crucial conversation’s about, but I think we’re more successful in building connections and relationships when we seek first the truth in what they are saying. What’s our common ground? What can I agree with you there? Where is that your truth? Even if it’s not my truth, I can acknowledge and respect it as your truth rather than seeking to disprove someone as I’m listening to them.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, when I think about a conversation, there are many outcomes that can happen. We could agree to move forward in a combined way, in a joined way. We could agree to disagree, but we can come up with a healthy compromise or a productive solution, or we could still have a dispute. And I’m sure there are other variations of that. So what happens towards the end of a crucial conversation? I would imagine that they don’t really end if you do your job properly, right? You’re always in dialogue.

Emily Gregory:

Absolutely. You may have noticed that, I think at several times throughout the discussion, I’ve used the words like conversation and relationship almost as a pair because I don’t think very many conversations exist as just single discreet entities. They’re part of, for most of us, part of ongoing relationships that ebb flow and their agreements and disagreements and coming and going.

So I think you’re right to say they don’t often end. Firstly, I will say that crucial conversations are not a magic wand. And again, it’s not about getting everyone to agree with me. Sometimes the biggest outcome is that I learned something. I learned something about someone else’s different experience, and maybe I act on that right away. And maybe I just carry that with me for a while and sit with that. That can be an acceptable outcome.

What I have found is if we walk away in disagreement after a crucial conversation, it is still fundamentally different than where we started in disagreement. And here’s what I mean by that. If you and I are having a conversation and we’re on polar opposite ends of things, and we are just at cross purposes, and we are pushing back and forth on everyone. And I stop and say, “Laurie, I really want to hear you. I want to understand you. I want to see if there’s something we can come to an agreement on.” And we struggle with that. We try, and we have all this good intent, and we get to the end, and we say, “This is not going to happen. This is just not going to happen.”

We walk away still in our disagreement, but my experience is that you will feel differently about me, and I feel differently about you because we tried, right? You’ll walk away and say, “I know Emily… “Say I have the decision. You’ve come to me with something, and we’ve batted it back and forth. And I still get to make the decision, and I’m not going to go the way you wanted me to go. My hope is that you would leave that conversation and say, “I know Emily didn’t do what I wanted her to do, but man, I feel like she tried, and she really listened. And I can respect that in her.”

So it’s not just that we’ve disagreed, but our relationship is different at the end of the disagreement than it was at the beginning.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, what really strikes me about this entire conversation we’re having is that it really takes the transaction out of a conversation and, to your bigger, broader point, really focuses on the relationship. I think so many of us assume we’re better communicators than we really are. We assume we’re into relationships, right? And maybe we read, Crucial Conversations 10 years ago or 15 years ago at the beginning of our careers. What’s new in this most recent addition? What’s changed?

Emily Gregory:

It’s a great question. And I can tell you it’s about some of what we tried to bring to this addition. So yeah, and what hasn’t changed skills and principles and things like that, but crucial conversations, it’s so important for people to see themselves in it. What I wanted in writing this last book was I wanted people to see themselves, their problems, and their realities in crucial conversations.

So in terms of the examples and the applications, we’ve made them so much broader to really cover a wealth of different kinds of experiences that people might have. And this is a little bit off tangent, but one of the things that has been really powerful for me in the last couple years has actually not been my experience around hybrid and work and things like that, but actually around just the huge energy and discussion and dialogue around diversity and equity and inclusion and belonging in the workplace.

And for me, crucial conversations are at heart an inclusive behavior. If I want to be an inclusive person, what do… I can believe in inclusion, and I can have that value, but how do I behave inclusively? And that’s what I think crucial conversations are. And I think you see that woven into this recent addition to say, “This is about how do we in include everyone’s perspective.” Remember, what’s the trifecta for the crucial conversations, the three elements? One of them is differing perspectives. And my goal is to include them in the pool of meaning, to include them in the conversation. And the behavior I learn in crucial conversations, the skills I learn, are how I do that. And I think that focus of crucial conversations has really sharpened in the last couple of years and is reflected in the most recent version of the book.

Laurie Ruettimann:

So beyond the book, there are a lot of different ways that we can interact with the whole crucial empire, correct? So we’ve got the book as individual leaders, as contributors. We can go to our local bookstore and buy the book, but I know your work expands beyond the book. So tell us a little bit.

Emily Gregory:

So actually at heart, we are a training company. We’re a learning experience company. And as I was saying at the beginning, my career has been more in the classroom than behind a desk, typing things and writing things. I, at heart, am a trainer, and that’s still what we do today. So Crucial Conversations Training is one of the best ways to interact with it, and we can do that in person, in places where that still works, and virtually, and on-demand and all the different ways. It’s a great way to interact with us.

We also have a great newsletter that goes out to people once a week that you can sign up for and just get those constant cues and reminders about things. And you can find a lot of resources at our website, which is But I think for me, and I probably should pitch one more than the other, but I think it’s really about we want to offer a lot of different ways that people who want to learn, that people who want to get better, can interact with us because for some people it’s going to be this podcast, Laurie, and that’s all they’re going to need.

They’re going to say, “Wow. I got some new ideas about safety and creating my intent, and I’m good to go.” And other people are going to say, “I need to practice this. And I want someone to give me some feedback, and I’m going to need some coaching.” And they should go to training, right? Because they’re going to get a gifted facilitator who can help them work through some of that.

So it’s really about just offering a lot of ways for people to connect and connect with the content the way that makes sense for them.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, you are on a podcast called Punk Rock HR. And one of the things that I am is a skeptic in the world. And so I know that sometimes I’m an advocate for things because I’m working on them myself. So I wonder what your crucial conversational skills are like? What drives you to do what you do? Is it because it’s something you needed to work on? How did you arrive at this moment in time?

Emily Gregory:

So it’s definitely something I both needed to, and I’m going, to be honest, need to work on. I think I’ve been on a journey for a long time about wanting to improve my own communication ability and wanting to really help others and teach others to do it. On a personal note, several years ago, while I was working for Crucial Learning and going out and training Crucial Conversations, I got divorced. And it was a huge experience to feel like I was telling people, “This is how you can improve your relationships and your results, and everybody can come together.” And then I was going home, and it was so hard to see this, to experience this marriage disintegrating.

But what I got from that experience, and what I tell people is crucial conversations, it didn’t save my marriage, but it saved my divorce. The way we worked through that was different because of the skills I was able to bring. And I’m so grateful for that. That being said, I don’t think I’ve arrived yet. In fact, I’ve just recently changed roles at my organization, and I’ve found myself now in a very strange place, almost at the top of the power hierarchy. And it’s interesting because I’ll be in these conversations, and afterward, someone will say, “How do you think that went?” And I’m like, “Well, it went fine for me.” I don’t know how it went for them.

I’m finding I’ve got to bring different skills to bear as I’m in a different position. So yes, it’s absolutely that passion for myself of learning and growing with those skills. But also just really paired with a strong belief that it’s not innate, that people aren’t born good or bad communicators. And if you got lucky, you’re good. And if you didn’t too bad, but that actually I just have this absolute, complete conviction that human beings can progress, that we can get better, that people can change and that no one is static. And that’s why I’ve spent my career trying to help people change in ways that they want to. In ways that will help them get what they want.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, Emily, that was a really beautiful and honest way of describing your journey around crucial conversations, and I just wonder how many people you encounter learn about crucial conversations at work and take it home, or maybe vice versa? This has got to be a common theme in the people who work with your material?

Emily Gregory:

Oh, yes. Laurie, I’m laughing a little bit because when I first started working with Crucial Conversations, I was going out training at organizations, right? We’re mostly a B2B training company, and so HR departments are bringing us in, and we’re doing training, and we’re telling these clients, “This is going to improve teamwork and collaboration, and you’re going to get better results.” And we’ve got a lot of data to show that.

So here I am. I’m going into these rooms. And one of the things that’s a part of our training is we have every single person identify a specific conversation they need to hold. And then they work on it with a learning partner throughout the training, right? So as we teach a skill, you then get some time to reflect and think, “How am I going to use this with my conversation to make it really real?”

So I’m going into these trainings. And I remember thinking, “I am in so much trouble, and I’m totally doing this wrong.” Because at least three-quarters of the people have picked a conversation at home, right? They’re picking a conversation with their spouse or with their adult child or with their in-law or whomever. And I’m thinking, “These companies are paying me money to help them get better results.” And these people are hopefully having better marriages, right? And I went back to my manager at the time and was like, “I think I’m doing something wrong. How do I get people to pick conversations about work-related topics?” And God bless him. He said, “You’re doing it great. That’s actually… The thing about crucial conversations is they will go home, and they will try it home, and it will work. And then they will come back and use it in the workplace.” And that’s why organizations buy our training because it does deliver those results.

So because when you say what matters to you, most nobody says work, right? You say what’s the most important conversation you could have? What’s the most important relationship you want to improve? No one says, I mean, a few people say work, a few people say work, but for the most part, they don’t. And what I love about the organizations that we work with is they want to help the whole person. They know that if someone’s using better communication skills at home, they’ll use them at work and that it’s just a virtuous circle.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, it’s funny because my husband first learned of Crucial Conversations at work and brought it into our home life and really helped us talk about money and finance and things we wanted and shared goals in a language that wasn’t available to us through our families of origins. So I’m so grateful we got the opportunity to talk about this because I really do believe that we fix work by fixing ourselves first. And when we work on ourselves, we bring that good stuff to work. But in my husband’s case, he brought the good stuff from work home to my life. Isn’t that awesome?

Emily Gregory:

You know what? There’s no reason to put boundaries around good stuff, right? Let’s just let the good stuff go as far as it can.

Laurie Ruettimann:

There you go. Well, I’m so pleased you were our guest today. Would you share where everybody could find out more about you and Crucial Conversations?

Emily Gregory:

Yes, absolutely. You can go to our website, which is You could also go to, and it will redirect you back. And you can find out about all the work that we’re doing with crucial conversations.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, Emily, we’ll have a link to all of your good stuff, including your LinkedIn profile, so that people can connect and learn more about you and your conversational journey as well. And thanks for being a guest on the podcast.

Emily Gregory:

Oh, thanks, Laurie. It’s been so much to discuss my favorite topic. So thank you.

Laurie Ruettimann:

Hey everybody. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Punk Rock HR. We are proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to

Punk Rock HR is produced and edited by Rep Cap with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information, show notes, links, and resources, head on over to Now that’s all for today, and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.