Everyone Should Read … Crucial Conversations

In case you haven’t noticed, I do not make such absolute statements often. In fact, I dislike and disagree with most statements that leave little room for flexibility. Yet, I keep finding myself thinking that this book, Crucial Conversation: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, & Al Switzler, is a book that everyone should read. Period.

The first time that I was aware of thinking that everyone should read this book was at one of my ToastMaster’s meetings. I approached one of the members after the meeting. I was not angry or frustrated, I felt compassion for the situation I knew that person was in, and that I needed to speak up about some of my own limits. They ended up walking away from me after looking down dejectedly and saying “yeah.” I felt bad; it did not go the way I had intended. In no way did I want that person to feel bad, what I did want was for certain things to not happen again.

This is one of the reasons I am sure that the book stresses that it should be referred to regularly, using it as a workbook. Many pieces play into having a successful crucial conversation. Then you have to factor in the other person and their state of mind. I had managed to use some of the tools they talk about, but definitely needed to pay more attention to some others.

One of the things that I appreciated about the book was that it did not feel like they were blaming anyone. What mattered was that it was a situation between two people, and both people needed to be in a place to have the conversation. It does offer some tools to help you set the stage so that the other person can feel comfortable having the conversation. In truth, we know that we can only change ourselves, so the focus is on providing skills to us, the reader.

Throughout the book, there are stories, from the business setting to the home. These show how to use the skills they are talking about and illustrate their points well. Those examples helped me stay interested. Although it is a “business” book, it was an engaging read. Anybody can apply these skills in whatever situation.

A lot of us probably know many of these points, yet it is put together in a cohesive way that can increase the success of the conversations we have. Even if we do know all the information, it does not mean that we could not use some refreshers on those points. Having a successful crucial conversation is a complicated process. I would wager that not many of us do it as often as we would like!

Given my interaction at ToastMaster’s I had an immediate framework for what I had failed to do. The timing/place was wrong, since I approached at the end of the meeting while there were still a number of people milling around, it would not be as private. I also think that I did not make it “safe” enough, I was not as clear as I could have been that I sympathized with the reasoning behind their actions. Of course, I was also not finished with the book; I was apparently eager to try the things I was learning.

I appreciate the Crucial Skills newsletter from VitalSmarts and have been enjoying seeing the authors answering questions about different situations. It keeps many of the various skills in the forefront of my mind. I am also excited to read the next book, Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior.

If we could all master the skills presented in this book, the world would be even more amazing place with much less conflict. We would probably all be much happier too since we could comfortably speak up about the things bothering us and be heard. It all starts small; will you pick this book up?

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