I have to be honest, the first time I tried to read this book I was disgusted by the slick sales-pitch tone and the undercurrent of “it’s hard, but you just need to…” followed by advise that flies in the face of instinct, culture, life experience, and emotional state.

However, I came back to the book and read it looking for the useful gems rather than for the literary appeal, and found there were several strategies worth adding to my toolbox:

1.  The focus is on how I can manage ME because I can’t manage anyone else.  The only person whose mood or message I can control is myself and as aggravatingly simplistic as this is, it is critical to accept.  When someone is angry, silent, accusatory, off the mark etc., it is up to me to find ways to work through the scenario.

2.  Accepting the idea that I can only manage myself, I have to become adept at asking whether a conversation is in a state of dialogue or game play.  As in: “I think we’ve moved away from dialogue” (p.180-81) and into silence or violence.

2.  One of the ways to work my way through an intense conversation is by focusing onwhat I really want to achieve–this is the heart of my efforts and where I need to focus my intentions.

3.  I can help myself achieve my intentions by embracing and modifying the storiesthat we all tell ourselves to bridge between our perceptions and our actions.  I can focus on facts before exploring my perceptions and engaging the perceptions of others–always aiming towards the shared purpose of the dialogue rather than on winning or being right.

4.  I can help others feel safe by listening, asking, contrasting, apologizing, mirroring, rephrasing, and priming them to fully participate in the dialogue.

5.  Conversations can result is positive actions because it has been made clear how decisions will be made and who will be involved and responsible for taking action.  I find this is an area of challenge even when the conversation wasn’t crucial.  Things get discussed, then feelings are hurt over the decision-making process OR no real decision gets made.  Finally, a decision is reached and “we” all agree that “we” need to do something about it…someday.  The following notes are from chapter 9, pages 161-178.

Four kinds of decisions:

Command decisions–authority makes the call.  ”With command decisions, it’s not our job to decide what to do.  It’s our job to decide how to make it work.” p. 165

Consultancy–invite input, make decision

Vote–good when there are multiple good choices, little time

Consensus–strongest support but longest process, save for when the issue is complex and everyone must support the final choice.

How to make a decision:

1.  Who cares? involve people who actually care

2.  Who knows? involve people who have relevant knowledge or expertise

3. Who must agree?  involve people who need to support

4.  How many people is it worth involving?  involve the fewest (quality ofver quantity)


Who?  Does what? By when? How will you follow up?

Be specific with outcomes, names, dates–and record it!

Lastly, I appreciated the final chapters that give suggestions for classic tough conversations and ideas for turning hope for better conversations into habit.

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