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on 12 July 2013
I am still around chapter 8, but I find it extremely useful and I wanted to second others' recommendations for checking out this book. I never thought that I was an expert on conversations, but I had the impression about myself that I was at least "ok". So, I didn't experience it as an enjoyable reading (especially at first), because it reminded me of so many crucial conversations in my life where I did all the wrong things, injured relationships, and got exactly the opposite results of what I intended out of a conversation or for not having the conversation at all. So it was more of an emotionally painful but sobering reading, and with some hope at the end of the tunnel, as I continue to read. If nothing else, I am now more aware than before that my skills in this area are certainly in need for improvement.

And the authors' entire premise and set of techniques are described very simply and clearly, without all the heavy wordiness and theorizing that social scientists usually use in their books. It's very practical, short sweet and to the point, which I personally appreciate very much. I understood better through this little book what Kaheman tried to bring across in his large book "Thinking Fast and Slow" regarding the interaction of System 1 and System 2, even if the authors did not use these terms at all.

I am not promising that we won't be struggling with improving our crucial conversations for as long as we live even after reading the book, but even if we are able to remember even a couple of the tips and implement them during our next high-stakes conversation, it might make a big difference to an important relationship in our lives. And there lies my hope.
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on 31 December 2007
The best part of it is that it really helps, it doesn't read like your classic self-help book either. The analysis comes off as scientific and intelligent, not your average "I think it's like this" book. The downside is that it also gets a bit boring and lengthy at points - once you've gotten the point it often continues five more pages. Some points in the book I found hard to apply, but around 80% of the advice is directly applicable. It is full of examples - but they are served exactly the same way everytime : short and heavy handed. I'd rather see some more real-life examples with all the subleties we use in our language.
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on 5 June 2013
This book was given to me by a friend, which is why I read it. I'll be honest, some of the self-help language (pools or meaning etc) and American self-help style was a little off-putting at first. I reached a point after about page three, where I realised I could just roll my eyes the whole time, or actually allow the book to teach me a thing or two. I'm so glad I persevered as I have learnt a lot and fear I will probably have to re-read this book several times in the course of my life for some of that wisdom to actually stick.
I felt particularly outed by some of the power-games mentioned that I often turn to in arguments, and am working on avoiding these in future conversations.
So, whether you tend to flight or fight when it comes to handling interactions that really matter, this is a great book to add to your tool kit.
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What is a crucial conversation?
According to the authors, opinions vary, the stakes are high, and emotions run strong. This can involve ending a relationship, asking a friend to repay a loan, giving the boss feedback about bad behavior, critiquing a colleague's work, or giving an unfavorable performance review.
You have three choices about such conversations. You can avoid the conversations, face them poorly, or face them well.
This book focuses on the last, providing practical advice about how to keep your own cool while encouraging everyone else to do she same. You can save a lot of time in reading and understanding the book if you look at figures 10-1 through 10-4 beginning on page 182 before you get very far. It's a helpful overview of the authors' point of view.
The book's strengths come in the authors' sympathy with those who have trouble holding such conversations, the many examples and advice on how to deal with difficult situations.
The book's main weakness comes in a desire to encapsulate the key lessons into ACRONYMS like STATE and ABCs. While they are nifty acronyms, I couldn't remember what they stood for by the next page. Something more visual at each stage would have helped me out.
I also think that the book would have benefited from more advice on how to be empathic with the other people involved.
But if you normally handle such situations by running the other way, screaming or slamming the door, this book will help you develop much more constructive habits that will leave you feeling better about yourself.
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on 7 May 2012
This book was recommended by someone who told me it was lifechanging, an opinion which could be bolstered if one believes the jacket blurb. I was disappointed. Having read similar books and attended a few courses of the popular psychology type, I didn't find this book particularly novel. Much of the advice could be summarised by saying 'listen to the other person', or else it gives common sense advice like 'don't get angry' or 'think before you speak'. Yes the book does have interesting nuggets of advice and it does suggest approaches which some people may find useful. All I can say is that it didn't do much for me.

The two most important things about this book are its extremely American tone and its emphasis on the business environment. My criticisms of the authors are perhaps as much a criticism of American culture as they are of the authors themselves. The amount of aggravation, competitiveness, unhappiness, frustration, even nastiness, reflected in these pages is surely not healthy. It is as if the backchat, argumentation and oneupmanship reflected in certain American films reflects actual reality. In a British context, it is as if we all act like television 'East Enders' characters.

The whole environment represented in this book is difficult for me to immerse myself in and I don't want to. In any case I suggest that the book may be of more use to people with problems in a business environment than to those who have communication problems in their personal lives. For such people I expect there are better books.
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on 29 April 2003
Wanna argue? Nope. Then you need Kerry Patterson and his co-writers, who describe techniques for effective negotiation and conflict resolution in the context of important, potentially life-changing conversations. Examples include talking yourself into a promotion, bringing up important information at meetings and working out problems with your spouse. Some tips will sound familiar, such as knowing what you really want and being open to alternatives. However, the book also highlights some themes that are often forgotten in negotiations, such as making it safe for others to express their true feelings and desires. The authors explain how to avoid getting forced into false either-or choices and tell you how to remain alert for unstated alternatives or possibilities. This lively book includes many examples drawn from business and personal relationships. We from getAbstract recommend it in particular to those are new to negotiations and conflict resolution, though it teaches solid skills that any manager - or any marriage partner, for that matter - could benefit from mastering.
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on 11 April 2005
I enjoyed the book, but like Stephen Covey's material I found it little theoretical and academic for me.
The book does a nice job of detailing how quality conversations take place or should take place, also how to achieve this type of converstation.
The downside I felt is that I wanted help with dealing with hostile customers, clients or colleagues. I frequently attend meetings where I would like to handle these situtations better.
My opinion is that the book didn't cover those situations well enough for me to take into my business life.
This is still a worthwile book to read and would recommend it.
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on 26 April 2011
I don't generally like how-to books. They tend to be full of silly made-up jargon. This has a few but in the main it's readable and makes a lot of sense. In practice it can help you avoid getting embroiled in emotionally negative conversations at times when you need a clear head to find ways through the thickets of conflict. What I particularly liked was its easy to learn techniques and the fact that you don't have to get a PhD in conflict management. There are clear examples of difficult situations (both workplace and personal relationships) and how to handle them. I would highly recommend this book.
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on 5 July 2010
Excellent book
Case studies are worth reading
Very Americanised but the ideas are useful in most settings.
It needs more than one reading but you can then choose which chapters to focus on.
I read it from cover to cover and definitely need to go back and study individual chapters.
There are times when I felt the authors were being patronising as if you only read the book if you were a novice. they also make assumptions about their readership.
Despite this I have already used some of their advice at work to good effect
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on 12 January 2008
This book was a most enjoyable read but left me with a touch of ambivalence. As a handbook for communicating more effectively, it's helpful but perhaps a bit simplistic.

"Crucial conversations" are defined as those in which opinions vary, the stakes are high, and emotions run strong. The book targets situations in business and personal life, and is extremely readable with its many illustrative dialogues from both sectors. An extensive vocabulary is introduced and I've had some of the terms floating like a ghostly subtext under my own conversations: Sucker's Choice; Safety; Salute and Stay Mute; Silence or Violence; Freeze Your Lover; Pool of Shared Meaning. It's all useful even if reductionist.

The techniques offered for effective negotiation are generally quite obvious, yet they bear repeating and codifying. They are, however, techniques, and as such they probably won't give earth-shaking results without an understanding of what's making people tick. Conversation and negotiation are so much more than technique.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS is an ideal offering for the best-seller market and would be a great springboard for leadership development workshops.

My two picks for the best advice in this book:

(1) Stay focused on what you really want.
(2) If you give this book to a partner or business associate, don't take a yellow highlighter to the parts you think they need before you give it; better to work on your own side of the crucial conversations.

Linda Bulger, 2008
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