Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

"Our lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.  While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation can.  The conversation is the relationship." 

The conversation IS the relationship... what a powerful idea. Susan Scott highlights and addresses the area where most relationships break down - in the words that we speak, how we engage one another, and how we make others feel when we do so.  

She has selected seven principles of fierce conversations:

(1) "Master the courage to interrogate reality."  We are all skilled at masking reality, both to ourselves and before others.  She exhorts us to stop ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room, and in the words of my roommate to "deal with it!"

(2) "Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real."  Most of us are skilled at hiding behind politeness or even an attempt at 'kindness' instead of courageously engaging the person and the topic that needs to be addressed.  She states, "While many fear 'real,' it is the unreal coversation that should scare us to death.  Unreal conversations are expensive, for the individual and the organization.  No one has to change, but everyone has to have the conversation.  When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation is over.  You will accomplish your goals in large part by making every conversation you have as real as possible."  

(3) "Be here, prepared to be nowhere else."  ... "Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person."

(4) "Tackle your toughest challenge today.  ...Burnout doesn't occur because we're solving problems; it occurs because we've been trying to solve the same problem over and over."

(5) "Obey your instincts." 

(6) "Take responsibility for your emotional wake.  For a leader, there is no trivial comment.  Something you don't remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone who looked to you for guidance and approval. The conversation is not about the relationship, the conversation IS the relationship..."

(7) "Let silence do the heavy lifting."

"Come out from behind yourself and make it real" is a phrase that has now become stuck in my brain.  My background training is in counseling, and in that vein, I have often held back from bold statements and powerful arguments for the sake of 'safety.'  Perhaps in many ways I have misapplied good principles in the wrong context.

I went through some rough patches in the past few years in which I felt I lost a great deal.  In that loss, there was a kind of rebirth that occurred at the end of that season:  I now feel that I don't have anything left to lose or to prove.  Its the sort of combination in my spiritual life and personal psyche that have generated a new boldness and frankness and courage in my personality.  At least, I perceive that...and I hope that others do as well.

I'm reading Fierce Conversations a second time... its that good.

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