“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” – Charles “Tremendous” Jones
Developing soft skills can be hard. Especially for us engineering types who like everything to be quantitative. Whenever I’m looking to improve or learn a new skill, I’ve found that reading books on the topic can be a great resource.
A book I read recently that I want to commend is, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, & Al Switzler.
The starting point for the book is that every one of us has key, pivotal conversations, both in life and business, that happen when we’re not ready for them. And we, almost universally, handle them poorly. In these moments, the pressure builds, our brain shuts down, our fight or flight response kicks in, and things go off in a direction we could not predict.
The goal of the book is to teach you how to communicate more effectively during these pivotal or “Crucial Conversations.” The authors discuss what a Crucial Conversation is, how to prepare for one and be ready to walk through it, and how to relate to others during the conversation to ensure meaning is shared and something is accomplished. The book is very practical, with lots of tips and techniques. So much so, that the book probably warrants regular review.
An idea that has stuck with me after reading this book is the concept of ‘Safety’ in a conversation. In any conversation, in order for meaning (thoughts, ideas, data) to flow from all participants, the participants must feel safe to share their views and insights without fear. If safety is not maintained, what will usually happen is that the participant who no longer feels safe will turn to silence (by shutting down, withdrawing) or violence (anger, outburst) and meaningful dialog will cease.
After reading this book, I was able to apply what I had learned in a number of “real life” situations:
• In one conversation, I was able to recognize when a participant no longer felt safe and turned to silence. I was able to follow-up later in a way that reestablished and maintained safety so that dialog could happen.
• I’ve had to initiate a few conversations that I knew would be difficult (crucial). I was able to approach them in a way that was different than I would have previously, thanks to the concept of safety, and I believe the conversations went smoother, dialog occurred and we were able to avoid the traps of silence and violence.
This is just one of the concepts from the book. There are a lot of others that are helpful and may resonate with you, as you have Crucial Conversations. Do you have any must-read books to recommend? Tell us about them in the comments.
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