Title: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
Authors: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Available Online 
For more than 25 years, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler researched people in the workplace. These authors found that what makes someone an effective colleague is the way they manage their conversations. The authors studied these conversations and took detailed notes when they were having crucial conversations.
The authors offer some basic steps for how to manage crucial conversations. First is to identify when a conversation is turning crucial. One way to do this is by your own physical signals (e.g., Is your stomach getting tight? Are you eyes drying up?).
Once a crucial conversation is recognized the authors suggest to “start with heart.” What this means is to dig deep down inside and figure out the message you’re truly trying to get across. Often in a crucial conversation you can become defensive and your message may get lost or never get sent because the focus turns to defending. If you can recognize that a conversation has turned crucial and stay focussed, then you can learn to avoid being defensive and stay focussed on the message you’re really trying to get across. If your conversation partner begins to get defensive, this is one way to recognize that they do not feel safe in the conversation. When someone is feeling unsafe, they are likely not hearing your purpose. To return to a safe conversation, the effective conversationist has to guide the conversation back to a mutual purpose; if both parties can agree on one goal, it makes the conversation safer, with both parties more likely to hear what one another has to say.
One of the best things about this book is the use of examples for various situations. This book is not just useful in a work setting, but also applies to conversations with spouses, family members, and friends.
The authors did a very good job of getting the point across in the first few chapters, however after that the advice seemed a bit repetitive.
Practice makes perfect. Just as trying to remember to sit with good posture may take a conscious effort so too does staying in tune to your emotions during conversations when they turn crucial. It’s easy to prepare yourself for a crucial conversation when you are expecting one, but as conversation escalates and emotions get stronger, it is easy for conscious effort to control your emotions to fade. Just as you may sit down extend your back, put your shoulders back, and focus on good posture, once you begin working on something you may realize a few minutes later your back is slouched and your shoulders are forward. If you are in the middle of a crucial conversation and you suddenly become aware that your emotions have taken over, take a few minutes to regain your composure, take some deep breaths, and start back into the conversation. Over time, forming some of the habits in this book should become natural just as good posture is more natural for someone that practices at it, such as a ballet dancer or physiotherapist.
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