Book Review: Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler
Conversations connect people, make impressions, express a thousand meanings and make the world move. It can be an easy conversation while walking at the park, a hot discussion involving a relationship or a day-to-day talk on work-related matters. What makes it a crucial conversation is when it makes or breaks a particular issue or concern or even a big chapter of your life.
Heated discussions, immediate conclusions, expressions made out of anger, uncalled for string of words- all these make crucial conversations fail and all because we do not recognize the need for a skilful engagement in such talks. Often times, we would rather ‘let it out’ because that was what we knew the best way to discuss the matter.
Maybe it’s time we take a second look.
How do we make conversations become a milestone in our relationships, career or personal legacy to society? How do we make a crucial conversation achieve its purpose?
Crucial Conversations answers this question by offering new insights and strategies to lead us where we want to go.
What does it offer to those who struggle with self-confidence, introversion or social anxiety?
Some of its concepts are the typical – think about the others and not yourself kind of thing of which the shy and the introvert should be cautious about. Sometimes, people like us, who are ‘socially challenged’ tend to give way to the others and forget about our side of the story.
No, no, no. Always keep in mind to take care of your own voice. Listen to the other side and balance it with your story. Never forget the self-love mantra while reading this book.
Nevertheless, the book is full of anecdotes and examples that the complex concepts are easier to understand with very concrete and real world examples of work and personal relationship dialogues.
I learned 4 important lessons from this book when making a conversation full of impact and life-changing results:
#1 Avoiding flight to silence or violence
Many times, a conversation ends up with a quiet hatred or resentment . This happens when we choose to keep quiet to avoid conflict. Choosing anger to vent out emotions and express negativity. Does it have to end this way? Is this the only path?
This path ends in to taking things personally and losing objectivity. Many of us know that the answer is to keep our cool and enter into a dialogue. Opening up for a discussion leads to putting down the facts, pros and cons and keeping in mind the objectives or the issues at hand.
In a shy or introvert situation, we can end up with a silence path. Keep everything to ourselves and let them be. We end up losing our voice, finding the right alternative and may be even sending a message that we can be treated this way. And this worsens when we eventually fall into a series of other issues that lead to our own violent reactions.
We do not have to treat ourselves this way. The book offers a sweet reminder, because often times we know it, that we do not have to leave the issues lying unresolved waiting to be uncovered later on. Hence, the need to roll up our sleeves and open a discussion.
Keep this openness, while at the same time, weighing in your own interests.
#2 Keep the objective of the conversation
We always keep this in mind when conducting a meeting, making a speech or a group discussion. What makes this difficult to handle is when you do this in any of these situations is when a surprise question comes up. This is the challenge for the introvert and the shy.
It is therefore imperative to keep the intentions at hand and not to lose track of what you really want to happen. In order to do this, authors suggest to keep the elusive ‘and’ in the discussion. The author suggests this process by asking ourselves these three obvious but basic questions:
- What do I really want?
- What is it that I do not want to happen out of this discussion?
- How can combine achieving what I want out of this conversation and not end up with negative outcome
By doing this and stating these specifically, it helps to remind those involved what was the talk all about and how to keep the discussion within these boundaries.
#3 Make it safe
Why do conversations end up in an argument? When one party talks starts with a careless statement, the other party gets into his defenses and there goes two people blinded by emotions. The book suggests stepping out of the conversation and allowing safety to come back to both parties.
Stepping out is essential in order to give the discussion back to its purpose. It is time to remind the parties of the mutual purpose of the discussion.
Instead of saying: ‘Here you go again with your mess in the bathroom, so lousy!”, why not try “I noticed that you still keep leaving a mess in the bathroom, can you help tidy up before you go out of it? I just want us to save time in cleaning up the house”
The first statement attacks and creates judgement on the other person. The second one makes an observation and requests for something.
#4 Use dialogue methods
Towards the end of the book, several methods of which were named by acronyms were recommended where it is not only easy to remember but gives solid instructions on how to flesh out the real discussion.
Let me share two useful ones that I like:
STATE (Share your facts, Tell your story, Ask for others’ paths, Talk tentatively and Encourage testing)
- Share your facts – real hard facts and not judgement or some conclusion.
- Tell your story – your interpretation of the facts
- Ask for others’ paths – to seek explanation from the other party
- Talk tentatively – to skillfully say something that is not ‘final’ and sounding to be ‘self-righteous’.
- Encourage testing – to invite others to share path by making it clear that no matter how opposing the idea may be, you want to hear them.
Authors suggest that instead of using words such as ‘The fact is…’, use ‘In my opinion’, switch ‘everyone knows that…’ to ‘I’ve talked to three of our four suppliers..’ or soften ‘It’s clear to me …’ with ‘I’m beginning to wonder if…’
Contrasting – this is another method that is very useful. It is to make a statement that clearly says 1) what you do not want to do and 2) what you want to do. By doing so, you are able to make the conversation safer, not misunderstood and clearly directed a specific goal.
Example: ‘ The last thing I wanted to do is to agitate our relationship with client by doing something inappropriate. I think that you are doing your job to make the project work and what we want to do is enhance the relationship by being more proactive and finding other opportunities if necessary.’
Make Crucial Conversations Work
Crucial conversations is indeed life changing. Think about it: Do we want to leave these important matters be left and be carried away by our emotions and without any direction? How can this lead to a higher purpose that we want to achieve?
There is a solution right in front of you waiting for you to pick up!
Which of the 4 lessons are you using already? Which ones do you think will help you very much in making that crucial talk?
Want to know more about Crucial Conversations? Browse and check it out on Amazon: Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition