Crucial Conversations

A couple of months ago I read the book Crucial Conversations and started applying its concepts. The premise of the book is that we are bad at conversations where opinions vary, emotions run strong and the stakes are high.

We’re bad as these kind of conversations because our brains have evolved a fight-or-flight response. This means we usually move to silence or violence when we feel unsafe. Which means dialogue stops. Which means our shared pool of meaning stays small. Which means we get suboptimal results. Individually smart people can do collectively stupid things when they communicate badly.

Crucial Conversations teaches you how to notice when you or others are gravitating towards silence or violence, and how to step out of the conversation to make it safe again. How to state controversial opinions in a way that gets heard, and how to explore the opinions and ideas of others, so everyone gets heard. And finally, how to turn those crucial conversations into action and results.

For me one of the most useful lesson was learning to bring up controversial or difficult issues faster, while encouraging others do to the same. Thus also finding solutions faster.

The other is the contrasting technique which helps you clarify what you mean by first saying what you don’t want. This one’s especially important in today’s world of online communication and remote work, where misunderstandings happen frequently.