Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Review by By Pat Weeks

On October 16, 2016, Rev. Monica Driscoll will give a workshop on this outstanding book after her Sunday talk at COTH. I cannot emphasize enough how reading this life-changing book will alter your perspective on communication with others.

Right now, tensions are high because of the upcoming election. It can be difficult to have a civil dialogue with persons who have different opinions from you. This book gives solid proof that we can learn to handle crucial conversations and hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.

The authors state:

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions start to run strong, casual conversations transform into crucial ones. Ironically, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well. The consequences of either avoiding or fouling up crucial conversations can be severe. When we fail a crucial conversation, every aspect of our lives can be affected—from our careers, to our communities, to our relationships, to our personal health.

The book is full of concrete, vivid examples—personal relationships, business interaction, family interactions– that illustrate the principles the authors are sharing with us.

We are all involved in crucial conversations almost daily whether it is at home or at work or in meetings. We need to become aware of the interpersonal dynamics at play and that we often have not developed to skills to respond differently so that communication is effective. The authors help us to have more positive, interaction and communication and show how to create a safe atmosphere for authenticity and openness.

According to the authors, human beings are poorly designed to get along with each other. Our brains are wired for competition. At most, we co-operate with genetically similar groups. Evolution has wired us to not want to work together with people too different from ourselves, lest we threaten our own survival. That may have been useful 2000 years ago in highly competitive tribal cultures, but in the modern world, such prejudice is usually counterproductive.

This book helps us to actually identify certain behaviors that may be hindering us. When confronted, the authors state, a human’s instinct is fight or flight. In a conversation, the fight instinct comes out in argument, sarcasm, or belittling. Likewise, the flight instinct comes out as keeping quiet and doing nothing during a meeting or encounter. We totally ignore what the other person said, keep silent, and display typical passive-aggressive behavior.

Despite this evolutionary wiring, this book also presents ways we can overcome these destructive habits that get in our way of effective communication—and helps us keep a cool head, communicate clearly, and get things done.

Please consider reading this revolutionary book and coming to the workshop on crucial conversations after service on October 16!

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