Crucial Conversations – Tools for talking when stakes are high by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian and Al Switzler

I was given this book by my boss because he felt that my communication style was too abrupt and that I needed to improve my listening and empathy skills. Well, that’s what I think he was trying to tell me – I wasn’t really paying attention because I tend to filter out a lot of information that I consider waffle.

This is not just a business book, and not just about business conversations. You can use the material to help you with personal relationships as well. It is full of examples and practical things you can do in lots of situations. It starts by building up a few examples of what crucial conversations are, and the history leading up to the authors developing their theory. The book has so much information that you won’t be able to absorb all of it if you read it just once, so I have found it good to have at hand just to flick through every now and then when I have the chance.

The book deals a lot with the emotional side of conversations, in that words do really hurt regardless of the situation. Each party in a conversation may believe they have been slighted, and that the other is at fault. This book helps you understand how to take a calm step back and re-assess the situation, before trying to continue, or not continue if the situation is too volatile.

The book concludes with three chapters about putting it all together, when it’s too hard to have a conversation and moving forward. I found the yes, but chapter quite good as there were quite a few examples there.

And as always, I guess I have to mention the things I didn’t like about the book. I found it lacking a bit of depth in the theory side. It was more like a series of techniques that worked, but no real explanation of why they work. If I want to understand how to have a crucial conversation, I want to be able to base it on some bedrock. That said, the theory may well be there and the authors might have that grounding themselves, but I didn’t feel it when reading the book.

Maybe I just read it too fast. Then again, I tend to filter out more than I should if I think it’s too much waffle.