Do you sometimes send an e-mail to avoid a difficult conversation? Have you left voicemail as a hit-and-run technique? Have you made yourself scarce from someone’s presence so that you could stay safely away from a topic of conversation?
I recently came across the book Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson et al. This is not a new book; it’s one of those that I wish I had read in my 20s, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for leaders (and everyone for that matter).
Just the other day I was speaking with a friend who has many years in human resources and is pursuing a PhD in sociology along those lines now. I asked him about leadership books and he said the problem with most of them is that the assertions they make are not in context, and context could make all the difference. The one book he did recommend, though, was “Crucial Conversations”.
If the point of a conversation is to win, to make the other feel bad, or to stay safe at all costs, then it’s probably one you’ll regret. This book provides strategies to understand how you can add to the “pool of meaning”, as the authors have labelled real, helpful dialogue. Much of the process requires the same self-awareness that is essential for any effective give-and-take. I suppose what I found most helpful were the examples, and I could see mistakes I’ve made many times in the past.
I’d encourage you to read this before your next difficult talk.