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Crucial Conversations - Grenny, McMillan, Patterson, Switzler

This is the most useful book that I have read all year. It left me thinking, why don't they teach this stuff in school or university.

This book is a practical guide to dealing with conflict. I'l try and give you a flavour of the basics.

My interpretation of the book is really about de-escalating conversations to a safe space, and then taking the time to talk through issues while constantly referring to a mutual objective.

When conversations become confrontational, us humans become emotional. Our reptilian brain takes over, pumping our system with adrenalin and giving us two options. Fight or Flight.

It is easy to miss the change from a conversation to a conflict. The first part of this book is about identifying when a conversation changes to being a crucial conversation.

The main objective is to remove the conflict from the conversation. When we are in conflict our brain chemistry stops us accessing the intelligent parts of our brain. We have to manipulate emotions to return to a place of rational conversation.

This is done by making a conversation 'safe', there are a number of techniques mentioned in the book. They are based around finding a mutual objective that both sides want to achieve. In the book this is referred to as 'starting with heart' what do you really want?

Conflict changes peoples objectives to winning, defeating the other party. This is rarely what people actually want.

Once a mutual objective has been identified it needs verbalised. This can be done through contrasting, stating what you do want and then stating what you don't want to achieve through the conversation.

It's hard to stress the importance of making others comfortable in the conversation. If they do not feel safe it will be nearly impossible to have a productive dialogue that leads towards mutual goals.

Things to look out for that show there is conflict are silence and violence. Silence is when people refuse to engage, this is taking flight. Violence can be shown in many ways, sarcasm aggression, this is the dominate and fight mentality.

I've already applied the principles of this book both at work, and in my personal life. One of the biggest revelations for me was becoming aware of my 'flight' tendencies in crucial conversations. It turns out that I can be very dominating and un-constructive, pushing to win the conversation at the expense of relationships and objectives. The most startling realisation was that I wasn't consciously aware of these actions! Removing the conflict from conversations has helped me to better understand the objectives, motivation and emotions of others. I've become kinder, closer to people and achieved more as a result of reading this book.


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