One of the best books I have read lately is Crucial Conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high. It seems like the stakes are high and emotions are elevated more frequently than they used to be, thus I am trying to learn how to be more effective in this environment as both a participant and leader.
The authors provide several very useful strategies, the heart of which revolves around creating a safe place for dialogue to occur. Only in dialogue can people share their meaning and stories so that they come to a true understanding. When people don’t feel emotionally safe, they revert to two behaviors: silence or violence, and the dialogue ends. (Silence is when people withdraw or avoid expressing themselves, while violence involves controlling or attacking language.)
I think that we all default one way or another, but neither are healthy. The book made me consider these responses and raised my consciousness as to how I conduct meetings to keep dialogue flowing and how I can contribute when emotions are high. It often feels like saying nothing and avoiding an argument is the polite or preferred response, but it shuts down dialogue as much as shouting does.
Think about the dichotomy of silence or violence the next time you find yourself in a important conversation. Do what you can to keep the dialogue flowing so that you reach mutual understanding of the crucial issue at hand.
Source: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler. 2002
Free resources at: www.crucialconversations.com