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Soundview Executive Book SummariesCommunicating Best When It Matters Most
A crucial conversation, as opposed to a casual exchange, is a discussion between two or more people about tough issues where opinions vary, stakes are high, and emotions run strong. When a topic needs to be breached that could easily lead to disaster, such as approaching a boss who is breaking his or her own safety or quality policies, or critiquing a colleague's work, or talking to a team member who isn't keeping commitments, talking openly is a must, but can be very difficult.
Mastering your crucial conversations can kick-start your career, strengthen your relationships, revitalize your organization and your community, and even improve your health, according to the authors of Crucial Conversations. (One study says a modest improvement in the ability to talk and connect with others corresponds to a two-thirds decrease in the death rate!)
A Free Flow of Meaning
The first technique that must be learned to master crucial conversations is a talent for dialogue. This is the free flow of meaning between two or more people. People who find a way to get all relevant information from themselves and others out in the open, write the authors, make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool, even ideas that at first glance raise eyebrows or appear at odds with their own beliefs. These people try hard to ensure that all ideas find their way into the forum; and as this "pool of shared meaning" grows, it helps people by exposing them to more accurate and relevant information so they can make better decisions - and when people share their ideas more freely, the increased time investment creates betterquality decisions.
The authors write that the skills that are needed to master high-stakes interactions are easy to spot and easy to learn. By organizing the lessons they have discovered from extensive research, they have created a set of tools that combines the philosophies, theories, models and skills that can help make crucial conversations more successful.
These tools begin with tips for understanding how we think about and prepare for problem situations. Creating conditions in yourself and others must be done to develop the path of least resistance. Next, people must learn the skills of talking, listening and acting together. The last part of the equation involves mastering the tools for talking when stakes are high.
The first advice the authors offer to help readers prepare for successful dialogue is, "Start with heart." Begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and then stay focused no matter what happens by knowing what you want - and never forget that dialogue is always an option. Never lose sight of the fact that the only person you can directly control is yourself. To stay focused on what you really want, pay attention to your motives whenever you find yourself moving toward silence or violence. Clarifying what you don't want will help you find healthy options to bring you to dialogue.
Staying Safe From Risk
Another important factor in the development of better dialogue is the ability to know when safety is at risk. Recognizing when the brain is beginning to disengage from a situation and moving away from healthy dialogue is a skill that must be learned to improve communication. When a dialogue is safe, you can say anything.
Since dialogue calls for a free flow of meaning, fear can kill the flow of meaning. To reduce fear, the authors say those involved in the dialogue must learn to look at content and conditions, to watch for safety problems, watch out for outbreaks of stressed behavior, and recognize when things are moving toward silence or violence. Learning techniques to make a dialogue safe helps everyone contribute his or her meaning to it. Once these things are learned, turning them into habits is what will make them useful when they are needed most.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
The skills that the authors set out to help others master in Crucial Conversations are pertinent to everyone who needs to communicate better, and the light-hearted, engaging tone with which they deliver them gets their points across clearly. By breaking down the tactful steps that must be taken along the way to a successful dialogue, the authors help their readers develop better strategies for getting what they want without losing sight of the nonabrasive persuasion that is necessary to get there. By developing their points and suggestions with an abundance of familiar stories and tales of positive role models, the authors deliver valuable lessons about mastering content, recognizing what works and why, and developing the skills to take actions that lead to successful, high-impact dialogue. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries