Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Crucial Conversation

I just finished reading Crucial Conversations: Tips for Talking When the Stakes are High and All Jokes Aside (AJA), this book is going to change my life.

I mean, it already has, but it is going to change how my life is going to change from now on. And yes, I have used the techniques in this book many times already. I'm not saying I've mastered it, but I've done much better at discussing emotionally charged issues since I've started. I would have to say this is the first book of this kind (self-help?) that I've read, ever. My dad sent me the book and I know he uses it because he is really good at discussing with people about sticky subjects. The main point though, that I got from the book was, "You can change how YOU act in a crucial conversation. Don't walk into a situation thinking you are going to get exactly what you want."

In case you don't have time to read this book, I have cleverly devised a summary scenario containing the main ideas.

You are supposed to use these techniques when you communicate with someone about a crucial subject. These can be used in any environment, and even with seemingly inane individuals. The whole point of this is to work out solutions and to avoid "silence" or "violence" types of responses, which is what usually happens in the cases of crucial conversations.

1. Communicate your facts and Tell your story. Start with the facts of the situation (your evidence to show what you've observed) and explain what conclusion this has led you to. This is to clear up when you have come to a conclusion about someone's actions so that they don't feel like you've made a villain out of them. It also helps you to realize that there may be many reasons that people act the way they do, and you can't just expect the worst.

Example: Jane: Every time I pass by your cubicle, you look at me up, down, and sideways, and you leave me out of the conversations when you go out with your snotty boyfriend, so I'm beginning to think that you don't trust me. Is there something I'm not seeing here?

2. When the response is in silence or violence, build safety to bring out more information.

Example: George: "Oh, so you think I never do anything around here. Whatever. Just send me the bill."
Jane: "It seems like that isn't okay with you. I see that your face is twisted and your left eye is twitching. Could it be that you are being sarcastic because you think I am insulting you? I am not trying to make you feel like your mother, I just want to make sure that we get to have a vacation that everyone is happy with."

3. After all the meaning is flowing into the shared pool, make a decision, make people responsible for their tasks, and follow up.

Jane: "So now that we know that you would prefer to have a dog because you are trying to reclaim your lost childhood pet, we will have a working prototype ready to go through debugging by May 1st, and Stan is in charge of notifying me of any issues."
Stan: "Wait, I wasn't here when we voted!"
Jane: "This decision was made by consult only, and we don't have time for full consensus. We only use voting when those involved don't mind either way things turn out."
George: "Thanks for listening to me. I really feel better now and that we can trust each other to communicate all the issues we're facing."
Jane: "Great. This may be a good time to discuss those pants you always wear when we visit my mother."


Metta said...

My mom has been trying to get me to read this book for a while now. To tell you the truth, she tries to get me to do a number of strange things, so I didn't think much of it, but now I'll consider making it my next book of the year (having just finished Zorro by Isabel Allende - another recommendation!). Thanks Mariko!

April said...

Hmmmm....I think I have to add that to my list now! I need all the help I can get!

Smiths said...

BUT who in a those situation is really going to think these steps through? I know exactly what I did wrong in conversations afterwords, I don't need a book to spell it out for me. How do I change my natural instinct and start thinking before I talk/yell/ignore?

Mariko said...

Yes, yes. The book addresses that. It also does put the whole situation in perspective to give you the reasoning why stuff like this happens when you are in a crucial conversation. I kind of knew, intuitively, but having it really written out made me think differently.
I haven't used it perfectly yet, but I've made progress. They try to make it really user friendly and give you simple tools to start out with.
Actually, maybe I shouldn't have read this book, because now I feel like I have some sort of responsibility in working on it, instead of just yelling back, which feels so satisfying at the time....

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to read this book; I know my mom and a couple of my siblings have highly recommended it. Thanks for the further recommendation.

I *have* read a book called The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense that has occasionally come in very handy. We used its recommendations to help my husband defuse an email correspondence with a guy he was consulting for when it started to go south. The guy seemed baffled by my husband's sudden switch to a non-confrontational (but communicative) tone, but baffled is so much better than furious/escalating.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

WOW! I am so putting that book on my list of summer reading. MAHALO!

I missed you, btw!