Monday, February 05, 2007

Success Book Reviews - "Crucial Conversations" Part 2

This is Part 2 of my review of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. You can read Part 1 here. I continue to believe this is one of the finest books on interpersonal communications I have read. In particular, the authors avoid any notion of "Pop Psychology". When the stakes are high with another person, you need to show your true honesty and be totally devoid of manipulation of any kind. Those of us with low levels of Emotional Intelligence (and I count myself in this camp) desperately need a reliable guidebook through the minefield of interacting with other people in a highly-charged environment. This book is that guide.

In the middle part of the book, the authors make some crucial points.

In a Crucial Conversation, the first directive must always be “safety” i.e. the person we are talking with must feel safe about talking with you. They cannot be made to feel you are demeaning them or attempting to destroy them

Mutual Purpose means that both participants are working towards a common goal. In a corporation, that might mean a project being on track, in a relationship, a more loving interaction. The authors reiterate, if there is no mutual purpose, we cannot expect “buy in” from the other participant.

Mutual Respect needs no definition. No one will work with you willingly if you don’t show you respect them.

The authors give several brilliant techniques for “making it safe”, one of which , called “contrasting”, involves first demonstrating that you have no intention of hurting them, and then confirms your high valuation of them. Several other techniques are presented.

In another breakthrough chapter, the authors present penetrating insights on mastering our own emotions. They present a technique, "mastering our stories", that allows us to take a microscope to our own emotional responses, so we can move past our instinctive “flight or flight” impulses, to our real goals: positive outcomes for all. This involves following the history of “what made us mad” so we can let in some sunshine and rationality.

Once this technique is learned, we can engage with the other party by checking our “stories” against input from the other party. This allows for openness, respect, and additions to what the authors call the “pool of shared meaning”. Assuming we are willing to let go of our self-focused aims for the good of the relationship, the possibility of positive outcomes seems immeasurably increased. Two excellent techniques stand out for me as methods for “turning down the heat” in an engagement.

If we see someone as a “villain” we can ask ourselves: "why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what this person is doing?” That is not to say there are not bad people that we must deal with, but, assuming we are focused on ridding ourselves of unnecessary anger and bias, this technique will enable us to be at our best in the interaction.

Another major “defuser” in an engagement is to stay focused on the facts. For instance, if you are discussing a delicate issue with your spouse, “You cur!!! You were having an affair last night!!!” is a lot more destructive than “I noticed you came home late last night. Can we discuss this?”.

From time to time, I have had the opportunity to discuss management techniques and challenges with several executives I admire, and I have always been impressed at how they were able to rid themselves of an irrationally personal bias, enabling them to get the real job done and move forward. This book really gives me insights into how these "masters" do it.

There are a lot of books on success out there. But success truly begins inside ourselves. To make progress on this path, read this remarkable book. More in Part 3.

Back to Part 1


No comments: