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Breaking Through Gridlock by Jason Jay and Gabriel Grant
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Breaking Through Gridlock

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Breaking Through Gridlock by Jason Jay and Gabriel Grant
Paperback $19.95
May 22, 2017 | ISBN 9781626568952

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  • May 22, 2017 | ISBN 9781626568952

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Product Details


“A field manual for change agents on how to build bridges across differences and move from talk to action.”
—Adam Grant, Professor of Management, The Wharton School, and New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

“This book is not for the fainthearted, but if you truly want to change the world, it gives us the tools and the inspiration to do so.”
—Gwen Ruta, Senior Vice President, Climate and Energy, Environmental Defense Fund

“Our country’s future depends on our ability to reach beyond our echo chambers. Jay and Grant guide us through starting the conversations so crucial to our democracy.”
—Van Jones, cofounder and President, The Dream Corps; CNN contributor; and author

“We need the creativity that can be harnessed from competing perspectives to craft a thriving organization and a thriving society. This book gives people the tools to take that on.”
—John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Market

“Jason Jay and Gabriel Grant single out authenticity as the key to breaking through the conversational gridlock that afflicts so many of our public and private interactions. They highlight the traps we fall into, as well as promising pathways for working our way out of them. It won’t be easy, but you can use the exercises they offer to practice sidestepping the polarizing moves we make without even being aware of what we are doing.”
—Lawrence Susskind, founder of the Consensus Building Institute; Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, MIT; and Vice Chair, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

“Whether you're hoping to shift your company, your community, or even yourself, Jay and Grant have produced an accessible and practical guide that will make you chuckle with recognition—then motivate you to get to work.”
—Christine Bader, author of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist

"In this savvy and highly practical book, Gabriel Grant and Jason Jay offer a way forward for groups that get stuck in seemingly hopeless, zero-sum conflicts. It should be required reading not only for corporate offices but also for congregations who preach unity and peace, but don’t always know how best to achieve them. And in a period of real polarization and deep division in our national culture, this is a book for our time."
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, XXVII Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

"Conversations are the most important leverage point for leaders and change makers. Jason Jay and Gabriel Grant offer critical insights and tools that will help you craft better conversations and thus a better world."
Otto Scharmer, Founder, Presencing Institute, and author of Theory U and Leading from The Emerging Future

Table Of Contents


Exercises x

Figures xi

Tables xii

Foreword xiii

Preface: How this book came to be xvii

Our journey xix

A note on our language xxii

Introduction: How to use this book 1

Serious play 2

A note on the exercises 4

Introduction summary 7

1 How We Get Stuck: Breakdowns in conversation 9

The power of conversation 10

Start where you are 15

Focus on real, live conversations 17

Power plays can’t help you strengthen relationships 21

Framing breaks down in unfamiliar and polarized situations 22

Start with authenticity 26

What’s possible 27

Chapter 1 summary 28

2 (In)Authenticity: The key to getting unstuck 29

Consistency with the past can lead to getting stuck 30

Dynamic authenticity is aligned with the future 31

Dynamic authenticity is a team sport 36

Chapter 2 summary 39

3 Know What You Bring: The hidden baggage of conversations 41

Our way of being is tied with our background conversation 43

Our ways of being are shared 46

Uncover your background conversations 51

Ways of being can be tricky to see 55

Is being in the eye of the beholder? 58

Being and inauthenticity 59

Chapter 3 summary 60

4 Locate the Bait: What we gain when conversations lose 61

You got yourself stuck 65

Pitfalls: Background conversations that get us stuck 67

Identifying the bait helps you get unstuck 74

Bait usually involves right, righteous, certain, and safe 76

Map out your pitfall 78

Chapter 4 summary 81 

5 Dare to Share: Moving past the talking points 83

Connect with internal motivations 86

Express what you really want 96

Embody your new way of being 104

Chapter 5 summary 108

6 Start Talking: Bringing conversations back to life

The power of apology 113

You will encounter a variety of responses 122

Results require action, and action requires commitment 123

Chapter 6 summary 127

7 Embrace the Tension: How our differences can make a difference 129

Clarify values 131

Own the polarization 135

Expand the landscape 142

Dance in the new terrain 149

Chapter 7 summary 151

8 Widen the Circle: Building inclusive movements 153

Shared inquiry is required to change the collective conversation 156

Each social movement has core tensions and pitfalls 157

Realist-visionary tensions are present in all social movements 160

Movements can have collective bait and pitfalls 164

Find the possibility at the heart of our movements 170

We have only just begun to discover the pathways forward 178

Chapter 8 summary 184

Notes 187

Bibliography 195

Acknowledgments 201

Index 205

About the Authors 215

1 Where do you want to break through gridlock 3
2 Identify stuck conversations 18
3 What does authenticity mean to you? 29
4 What does authenticity mean to you? (ont) 34
5 Choose a buddy 37
6 Our unspoken background conversation 52
7 identify your ways of being 54
8 The Spoken conversation 52
9 The cost of being stuck 67
10 Recognize pitfall 73
11 Identify the bait in the trap 78
12 Map the pitfall 79
13 why is your endeavor important to you? 87
14 Notice what motivations you're sharing or not sharing 93
15 envision what you really want 97
16 create a new way of being 99
17 guided meditation 100
18 reframe the problem 106
19 build a new conversation 112
20 write a letter 121
21 conversation commitment 124
22 your values, their values 134
23 your values, their values 142
24 go beyond a one-dimensional conversation 147
25 brainstorm ideas that break trade-offs between values and objectives 149
26 Core tensions in your movement 163
27 locate the collective bait 169
28 envision the future together 172
29 transform the central conversation of your movement 175
30 create pathways for yourself and your movement 180
31 commit to action 182


1 our way of being gives rise to what we do and the results we have 44
2 ways of being when people are stuck 48
3 new ways of being created by our workshops participants 102
4 spheres of care 133
5 trade-offs between parts and wholes 136
6 when we perceive a fundamental trade-off between values, the best we can imagine is compromising one for the other 137
7 a on-dimensional conversation in the corporate and investing world 143
8 a common mental model of the trade-offs between performance and impact 145
9 breaking trade-offs through innovation 146
10 competing objectives 147
11 compromise or innovation? 148
12 ways of being expressed inside a positive future 173


1 statistic authenticity versus dynamic authenticity 33
2 thirty most frequently mentioned traits of a "typical" environmentalist 50
3 a few common pitfalls 68
4 elements of wholehearted and effective apologias 114
5 examples of people's acknowledgments of the pitfalls they have created 117
6 pathways forward 179

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