Crucial Confrontations: Tools For Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, And Bad Behavior, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
As this book review is a review to the second part of a two-part series of books , it is worthwhile to compare my impressions of both books before examining what is noteworthy about this volume. Crucial Conversations was more combative than its title indicated and Crucial Confrontations was less combative than its title indicated. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but it is noteworthy.
If you liked Crucial Conversations, and found the book useful, there is a high likelihood of you feeling the same way about Crucial Confrontations. Both volumes have the same set of authors, and both are organized in similar ways with very similar language. The subtitle of the book explains the content. There are really three sorts of triggers for crucial confrontations according to the authors of this book. First, there are broken promises, where relationships suffer because of an inability or unwillingness to fulfill commitments. Then there are violated expectations, where no explicit commitment is broken but where people feel taken advantage of or that there is a lack of shared purpose and shared standards of behavior. Then, there is bad behavior, which is also fairly obvious–behaviors like being late.
Again, as in the previous volume, a systematic approach is taken to dealing with crucial conversations that includes mastering stories (seeking to avoid victim and villain tales and in dealing with facts and not mere accusations). In addition, a variety of solutions are selected, including putting yourself in the place of the other person to show how the behaviors of others are contributing to negative results that they hate. Reading this book, it becomes pretty obvious that poor communicational styles have doomed a lot of families (including my own) to pretty unhappy and long-lasting suffering. Successful communication, especially about problems, requires mutual commitment to a shared purpose and mutual respect. When that is lacking there is no alternatives other than alternating silence and violence, which are the trademark of abusive relationships.
Perhaps the most helpful part of this book is its appendices, which include a handy list of “yeah buts” that give workable application-minded advice about how to deal with particularly difficult potential conflicts. Also of great use is the preparation work that can go into planning for crucial confrontations, such as marshaling support for going against a workaholic company culture. This book is a pretty sound book on a strategic level, and perhaps that’s one reason I’m so fond of the series–it’s written for someone with an eye towards planning and forethought, in overcoming problems through anticipating them in advance and preparing for them in advance, and then seeking honest and respectful communication that leads to desired results.
So, this is a good book. We can’t change all of the people in our lives (and I have a lot of them) that fail to communicate with both honesty and respect, but we can work on ourselves to help minimize our share of the problem. If a book like this can motivate us to improve our own communication skills, then it can at least signal to others that existing ways of communication are not acceptable and that we are serious about doing our share to improve our own problems, and that others need to reciprocate in kind. All we can do is work in ourselves and watch how that affects our own lives and relationships with others.