I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress towards becoming my best self in the last couple years, and a big reason for that is books. I’d like to begin a semi-regular practice of highlighting the ones that have connected with me the most – starting with one I finished just a few weeks ago. Crucial Conversations came with strong recommendations from several friends, so I went in with high expectations. It didn’t disappoint – the techniques are infinitely applicable and have already come in handy for me in several difficult conversations.
“Your body responds to an attack on your ideas much the same as it does when attacked by a bear.”Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan
Dialogue is the “free flow of meaning” – a high-quality conversation can thus be described as one that adds significantly to the pool of meaning shared by the participants. Shared meaning unfortunately becomes difficult to obtain when it matters most, because the release of adrenaline during crucial conversations limits blood flow to higher-thinking parts of brain and naturally incites a violent or silent (fight or flight) response. Neither silence nor violence is optimal – “peacemakers” are often “problem hiders” that value harmony over quality, and the assumptions and answers that characterize aggressive communication are unlikely to persuade your listener. Dialogue, on the other hand, consists of observations and questions. Asking these questions and maintaining objectivity helps us separate facts from “stories” (i.e. emotionally-charged assumptions we weave together from a small sample of facts), which is a necessary skill for mastering our emotions and communicating effectively.