Monday, May 13, 2013

A Person-to-Person Cool Tool (or: how to talk to anyone about anything)

Difficult conversations, are well, difficult. Talking to your boss about unfair treatment at work, talking to your son's teacher about his report card, talking to your neighbor about his barking dog, talking to your wife about pretty much anything, etc. can get might tricky. You know you need to be assertive, yet flexible. Understanding, yet firm. Luckily for me, a few years back I accidentally rented Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most on tape (or was it CD?) and listened to it. To my amazement, it gave me a set of concrete tools for dealing with exactly those types of conversation. I find that I use the advice from this one book on an almost weekly basis; and it has come in handy in everything from dealing with conflicts at work to dealing with our 8 year old.

Back when I listened to the book I apparently wasn't blogging, so I don't have any notes to refer to. In fact, over time I'd even forgotten the title of the book. I just held on to a few key lessons that shaped how I viewed conversations.

And then a few weeks back at the library I was perusing the business section and the title Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most jumped out at me. Could I have really found this gem? After flipping through a few pages I confirmed that yes, this was the book that had shaped my problem solving skills so thoroughly over the years.

Naturally I rented the book and re-read it. I was especially curious to see how creative my memory had gotten; could the book really live up to the hype I'd ascribed to it?

To my pleasant surprise, it was exactly the opposite problem. Yes, many of the key principles I'd been following were right there in the book. But, there were quite a few that I'd forgotten. In fact, I found that nearly every page contained some brilliant insight, many of which had been lost to me over time. It lived up to the hype and then some.

In short, if you have interaction with other people (which you do), you need to read this book. Don't think of it as a self-help book, think of it as Cool Tool for communicating with others. It's like showing up with a pneumatic nail gun instead of a big 'ol stick. Both might technically drive nails, but one's going to make life a lot easier.

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