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Critical ConversationsTitle: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High

Author: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

No. of Pages: 228

First Released: 2002

Synopsis (Courtesy of FSB Associates): “For decades people have suggested that relationships typically fail because individuals disagree about politics, child rearing, sex, or religion. At first blush, this makes sense because these topics matter a great deal to us. In truth, the extent to which two people disagree on key topics doesn’t predict relationship success. All couples disagree about a whole host of issues, and yet, not every relationship is tortured.

What actually affects the quality of your relationship is not if you disagree but how you disagree. When caught up in a heated discussion, the words you choose, the tone you take, the tactics you employ, are more important to your relationship than the content of the argument itself. If you know how to say it, you can say almost anything to almost anybody. And you can do it in a way that actually strengthens your relationship.”

Comments and Critiques: It seems that most of the books I’ve been reading and reviewing lately have been fulfilling a personal crisis. Wounded by School came at a time when I was looking for help with my son’s academic career. Crucial Conversations arrived around the time I was preparing for my annual review and several months after receiving feedback from several peers that still has me reeling.

I picked up this book hoping to help me be able to better converse with my co-workers, who declared that I was rude, confrontational and unapproachable. While I may not be quite where I want to be, this book did not disappoint in providing me with helpful hints and tools to use to better converse with everyone in my life – from loved ones to managers to peers. It’s going to take me some time to master these skills, but at least understanding some of the issues I face and how to initiate overcoming them is half the battle.

The authors freely admit that this book is not meant to be read in a short time frame but meant to be absorbed chapter by chapter. The goal is to get the reader to master each skill and build upon it. In order for me to best be able to absorb these lessons, I will definitely have to revisit each chapter. But I did come away with some initial lessons that emotions are our biggest downfalls when it comes to conversations that matter. Knowing how much my heart pounds and the blood rushes when I get truly upset or nervous, this definitely touched a cord. Being cognizant of the damage emotions do to conversations will help me be able to take steps to minimize their impact. In fact, I’ve already started incorporating this lesson and hope to remain cognizant of my emotions in all of my conversations. Some days I will do better than others, but at least I am trying.

The beauty is that these skills have their place in your professional and personal life. The concepts are presented in an easy-to-understand manner, and the authors provide many mnemonic devices that help the reader remember the skills. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their ability to converse and field their way in the trickiest, most sensitive of conversations.

Thank you to Anna Suknov at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book!

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