I’d like to share some first impressions from a book that I’m reading for my business communications class. The book is called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. As a preface, the authors have not asked me to write this blog post. I’m writing purely out of my own desire to share something that I think is going to make a difference in my career and my life. I’ve only read the first two chapters, so this is hardly a book review. It’s just a sharing of first impressions of the content.
The basic concept at the beginning of the book is that frequently, people have what are called crucial conversations, which are basically conversations in which there are opposing opinions, strong emotions, and high stakes. You could probably think of a few such conversations that you had in the last week that would qualify as “crucial.”
To avoid stealing the author’s thunder, I won’t go into the author’s recommendations, but instead will just dangle a few teaser quotes to get you interested:
“Twenty years of research involving more than 100,000 people reveals that the key skill of effective leaders, teammates, parents, and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues.“
“…you don’t have to choose between being honest and being effective. You don’t have to choose between candor and your career.”
“The key to real change lies not in implementing a new process, but in getting people to hold one another accountable to the process. And that requires Crucial Conversations skills.”
“After observing couples for hundreds of hours, the two scholars predicted relationship outcomes and tracked their research subjects’ relationships for the next decade. Remarkably, they were able to predict nearly 90 percent of the divorces that occurred. But more important, they found that helping couples learn to hold crucial conversations more effectively reduced the chance of unhappiness or breakup by more than half!”
Patterson, Kerry; Switzler, Al; McMillan, Ron; Grenny, Joseph (2011-08-19). Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition (pp. 9-10). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.
You can see that this book is full of gold nuggets, not only in theories about effective communication, but in empirical research to back it up.
Why This is Important to Me
Throughout my life, there have been situations in which I wasn’t able to communicate things that were important to me. I didn’t know how. The result was intense frustration and built up negative emotion. It wasn’t until recently in my career and personal life that I understood that if I were to gain any relief, I would have to learn to express myself in productive ways. That’s why the contents of this book resonate with me.
Looking outward, my daily interactions include a host of wonderful people that frequently express displeasure about something or other. They tell me how frustrating certain circumstances are, how they wish that their life was different because … and how stuck they feel. Usually, the source of their frustration is also a tangled personal or professional relationship in which they either are afraid to express their desires or simply don’t know how. Just today, I had a conversation with a wonderful coworker who was experiencing intense frustration over a relationship with another coworker in a senior management role. I asked this person several questions, including whether she had voiced any of these concerns to the other party. She replied that she had not. My friend had worked for years in a professional relationship without being able to give feedback to this senior manager. She sat on her discomfort and suffered in silence. Hopefully, my friend and I will be able to talk through ways of communicating effectively that will bring her some relief.
My parents always taught me that complaining was bad. Most of the positive literature I read agreed with my parents. I wanted to be a positive person. I wanted to be happy and cheerful, but I didn’t know how to deal with circumstances that were less than satisfactory. I felt like every time I saw something I didn’t like, that I was complaining. This book contains information on how to have those hard conversations in a productive way.
Do you realize what that means? It means that there is an alternative to either complaining or suffering in silence! It means that there is a productive way to address things that need to be addressed! It means that there is a way to communicate your feelings that is not hurtful or counter productive!
‘Looking forward to reading the rest of this book and hope that you will give it a shot as well.