Summary of the blog in case you’re in a hurry:
1. The book ‘Crucial Conversations’ is about having great conversations when the stakes are high. Starter points for doing this:
i. Focus on controlling your body’s natural reaction; breathe deep and don’t let your body go into fight or flight
ii. Look at the ‘win win’ and ask yourself “How would I be acting if I really wanted these results?”
iii. Find the shared meaning with the other person (i.e. “We can all agree we want this to be a great place to work)
iv. Avoid simple tradeoffs that cut off conversation like either/or options. There is always an ‘And’ option
v. Always start with heart, focus on what you want and finding meaning with the other person
2. If you want to learn more, read the blog post and/or buy the book (affiliate link) at Amazon or if you’re a local Bellinghamster, Village Books.
My apologies for not writing yesterday. I had the opportunity to spend the day in Seattle with a good friend (my previous Pilates instructor who moved away to Dallas) eating cupcakes, shopping and getting manicures. It was the epitome of a ‘chick’ day and we enjoyed it to the fullest. I didn’t get home until almost midnight. I did pick up a little treat for one of the chocolate lovers on the Bramble Berry team – Deathcake from Cupcake Royale – this crazy insane cupcake like treat with something like 6 layers of cake, ganache, fudge, espresso and chocolately goodness. For myself, I had my fave – Chocolate cupcake with Salted Caramel Icing with a big glass of milk.
This year, our Mastermind Group is picking our continuing education book series in an interesting way. Each member of the group is reading a business book that they feel would be a good fit for our group. Then, we’re writing a book report and previewing the book for the group before we choose our assignment for the entire group. This ensures that, as a group, we are spending our precious time reading books that will give us value and move us ahead in our lives in a meaningful way.
Though there are many incredible books out there and I want to read them all (!!), I chose one that came out in 2002 called ‘Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high’. I chose this book because having the courage to confront is one of my weak points. I want to be liked. I enjoy having great strife-free relationships. And, it’s easier not to talk about difficult issues, just ignore them and go on as if everything is hunky dory.
Only when you/I do that, the resentment, anger or frustration will pop out in some other unattractive or unhealthy way. So, I picked this book to learn some tools for dealing with touchy subjects.
The book is organized in a linear fashion – starting with what exactly a ‘crucial conversation’ is. A crucial conversation is any conversation where opinions vary, stakes are high and emotions run strong. It could be at work, it could with a spouse or it could be with a neighbor. We can handle these conversations in one of three ways: handle them poorly, avoid them or deal with them and handle them well. For most people, handling difficult conversations with poise and grace doesn’t come naturally. Humans aren’t wired for excellent communication. Emotions come in the way and we’re stuck with the way our body processes stress. Our body doesn’t work in a way that lends itself to sticking around, thinking calmly and rationally and working through issues. Our bodies are wired to produce hormones for fighting or to take flight – neither of which are particularly helpful.
The book then goes on to explain why misunderstandings occur. We all view things through a filter of where we grew up, how our parents taught us, how our schooling went and any other experiences we’ve lived through. It’s important when you’re having a ‘crucial conversation’ to recognize this and start to look for shared meaning with the other person. Focus on what you really want, ask yourself ‘How would I behave if I really wanted these results?’ and start to take charge of your body to calm those fight or flight instincts.
One way we all can fight dirty is by choosing the ‘Sucker’s Choice’ – only giving an either/or option and pretending you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. “I don’t want to be the one that tells you but everyone is thinking you’re a jerk” There is always an ‘And’ in every choice and conversation and pretending you’re stuck with two bad options will not produce a win-win.
After these practical strategies, the book goes into more nuanced communication skills such ‘Safety Problems.’ People that are really good at having crucial conversations can have a conversation while dual processing and watching for when the other person doesn’t feel safe in the conversation and steer the conversation back to solid ground. When people don’t feel safe, they either retreat into silence (to avoid potential problems or to deliberately withhold information) or violence (name calling, controlling, attacking behavior). When we are stressed, we all retreat to the worst of our natures. Learning not to retreat to our worst natures during stressful conversations is a skill and it can be learned. You can learn to look for safety problems and watch to make sure you and your conversation partner aren’t falling into the trap of silence or violence.
If you would like to improve your communication style and learn to address problems in all of your relationships with more grace and achieve better outcomes, head to your local library or local book store and pick up a copy.