Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crucial Conversations

Over the weekend I drove to Albany for PTA's Legislation Convention. During the drive I again listened to Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. The target audience of the book is clearly business leaders, but it is very appropriate for all people.

The authors define a crucial conversation as one in which stakes are high, the outcome will impact your life, and one in which emotions are also likely to be involved. We all have these conversations with our co-workers, spouses and family members and the people with whom we interact. Sometimes we handle them well, others not. This book provides tools to help us handle the conversations well.

An on-going marker of conversational risk described in the book, occurs when someone does not feel safe. He or she resorts to silence or violence- refraining from talking or going for the throat. For various reasons we engage in these behaviors, but if the issue is important, it is essential that we work to personally avoid them as they are pitfalls to progress and that we work to reduce them in others for the same reason. The authors reason that good decision making occurs when the pool of information is large and held by the entire group. Silence, refusing to add your input, restricts information and limits the quality of decision making. Violence, such as sarcasm, intimidation and name calling reduce others willingness to participate in decision making. If high quality decision making and relationships are the goal, neither approach is desirable. When we recognize that these behaviors are going on, safety has been threatened. Pursuit of a safe environment becomes paramount. The book does not address how to deal with bullies in a robust manner. They are out there and do impact us, but perhaps they can be worked around.

One of my favorite tool discussed was contrasting. They presented this in terms of Don't ... Do... For example, I don't want to seem ungrateful, but when you step in and pick up my space without asking me, it makes me feel like my space has been violated. Please talk to me about it next time. Recognizing the feelings, viewpoints and concerns of other parties becomes important just as stating your feelings, viewpoints and concerns.

This is an occasion I would like a hard copy of my audio book because I know that I need to go back and review portions of the text, something that I will find far easier and more comfortable with a paper copy than an ephemeral one. I wonder how our kids who regularly use audiobooks or ebooks feel about that concept.

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