I recently finished Crucial Conversations, a book about creating dialogue when the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.
Strongly Recommend: I thought this book gave incredibly helpful, practical tools for having productive conversations.
Here are a few of my lessons from the book:
- The Definition of Dialogue. The authors define dialogue as the free flow of information between two people–where both individuals in the conversation are adding their insights to the pool of shared knowledge. The greater the shared meaning between two people, the better the decisions, the stronger the conviction, and the deeper the unity that will result. Only by building better dialogues can we learn from each other and grow from the experience.
- Learn to step out of the conversation to create safety. The authors continually reinforce the idea of safety as a the condition for meaningful conversation. When people feel threatened or unsafe, they respond by shutting down, or forcing their opinion on the rest of the group. When you’re in a dialogue and sense that others feel unsafe, you need to pause and create a safe environment by establishing your shared purpose and conveying your respect before continuing the conversation is possible.
- Choose to tell the right stories. The authors point out that any set of facts can be used to tell an infinite number of stories–and we have control over the stories we choose to tell. When we feel helpless, or victimized, or that we’re dealing with a villain, we’re often telling only part of the story. In those moments, the authors encourage asking the humanizing question in order to temper a one-sided perspective–“Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person do what this person is doing?”–and they provide a framework for sharing your story and asking for the stories of others. I thought the insight that we have the choice over the story we tell from a given set of facts was incredibly powerful.
Again, I highly recommend the book. It’s already changed the way I approach conversations.