Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time

Although the title may bring to mind some vivid images, author Susan Scott doesn’t suggest that we talk in threatening overconfidence with unrelenting passion, but rather that our conversations be focused on genuine, eager, and truthful investigations into reality. It sounds like a lot, but the book provides many examples from the kitchen to the c-suite where these tactics are worth the effort.

Stemming from the idea that conversations do not make a relationship but rather are a relationship, the author works through communication hurdles–inviting the reader to identify their own biases and preconceived notions when engaging with others and being comfortable in delivering that same feedback. Helpful summary lists, assignments, and strategies are shared throughout the book. These assignments are as much about self-reflection as they are about providing structure to often awkward or challenging conversations that carry weight, particularly to young investigators. Highest yield for me was the “Issue Preparation Form Template” that includes tasks for identifying the issue, describing its significance, what the ideal outcome is, summarizing relevant background information, listing what has been done up to this point, options one is considering, and explaining what help they need to do it. Now summarize this in 60-seconds when talking to your mentor/boss/colleague so that you don’t lose their attention! It sounds like a push, but when asking for help, especially as a young investigator,  this structure reflects preparation, thought, and is more likely to get a favorable response.

The introspective approach the author uses to improve outward conversations is core. For example, replacing “but” with “and” when speaking about conflicts or challenges is an important way to display conflicts that are of equal importance without negating the former (i.e., “I know you want more time to complete the project and the deadline is looming. I’d like to help you and I have no easy choices right now. You seem stressed, and yet I need you to deliver this project on time with minimal involvement on my part”). This small change, in addition to the active listening and deliberate silence strategies identified, enrich interactions and help make this book into a helpful resource that can be called on when one does not feel they are being adequately heard or understood. As the author summarizes: “All conversations are with myself, and sometimes they involve other people.”

Fierce Conversations

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