Saturday, January 7, 2012

[Book Review] Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high

Title: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high

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


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Overall I found this book to be helpful in putting a finger on such an impossible skill as managing a Crucial Conversation. Over the years I have found myself engaged in crucial conversations where the skills described in the book are necessary but undefined. I am confident that my marriage and relationship with my children will be improved now that we can use a consistent language to manage the Crucial Conversation much more efficiently. For other crucial conversations where I cannot expect stakeholders to be aware of this language (like co-workers) - I can now review a concise cheat sheet and help steer the conversation towards a healthy output.

The authors have a diagram they intend to be a tool but I find it to be unhelpful.


It is clearly too abstract – probably b/c they don’t want people to skip reading their 200+ page book. Well I can’t read the book before every Crucial Conversation, so I decided to create my own.


In creating this, I found that I simplified some of the skills. I effectively combined the Master My Stories (not shown above) with STATE my path and explore others’ path because I feel that this should be a collaborative process where everyone is playing by the same rules. I think the authors separated it so much because some things are outside your control while exploring others’ path, but I feel like I want to be thinking about those things for both.

I also did not include Move To Action as I feel that is a separate problem. It is surely related but there are great resources that focus on just that problem and in the context of a crucial conversation, if we can get through high stakes, varied opinions, and strong emotions to come up with a solution. We can take a break, maybe even go to another cheat sheet to find a way to Move to Action.

I simplified a concept called CRIB which is meant to Make it Safe. CRIB stands for Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy,  Invent a mutual purpose, and Brainstorm new strategies. I found this to be highly repetitive and therefore overly complex. I replaced it with find common ground. This simple statement provides a great reminder if the conversation has gone to silence of violence to make it safe again by finding common ground.

I ignored one of the clever stories. I found that victim and helpless are two similar to clutter my cheat sheet. I found that when I tried to find a difference – a victim had a villain at which point its more of a villain story.

Though I know I am an improved human being after reading this book, I was disappointed during reading at how long the book is. The book is under 250 pages but could easily be under 100 pages. Much of the simplification I did in my cheat sheet was being performed by my mind while I was reading. It is disappointing to finish reading a paragraph or page and then say – wow – that didn’t really add anything new.

I do recommend this book.

1 comment:

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