Books, Professional Development

Book 258: Crucial Conversations – Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler

Patterson1401946REPRINT-2:Layout 1I’m going to start with an apology as I know part of this post won’t make sense and most of this post isn’t really a reflection of the book. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to make sense to you and it’s my blog so how I process the book is what you get. 🙂 A large portion of this blog is for self-reflection and for internal processing. Unfortunately things will stay pretty vague as the purpose of this isn’t to air dirty laundry in public, but to help me process things. So stick with me.

Crucial Conversations is the second book my journey in my 2014 mental health improvement plans. However, it probably should have been book one, but I didn’t know this at the time and to be fair the books are pretty interchangeable. I only mention this as this book closes with the same examples Duhigg’s The Power of Habit opens with and references multiple times.

It will come as little surprise to anyone who knows me, or anyone who has followed this blog for some time, that I’m having some troubles processing this book. It wasn’t a difficult book to read and I felt it did a great job of putting processes in simpler language and providing great examples for how to put their advice into action, but it was a lot to take in. The authors acknowledge this (and even get a little sales pitch-y) at the end of the book and explain ways to incorporate their advice through repetition of reading the book and branching out.

The biggest thing I took away from this book is that I’m not bad at conversations. I’m apparently quite good* at them, according to the book, I’m just not excellent as they describe it, but they provide a number of hints and suggestions that will definitely help me in the future. I’m not sure I’ll remember any of the acronyms they included like STATE or AMPP (I already don’t remember) but I remember the basis for them and my trigger points to keep an eye out for. [*Clearly that is with a major caveat that I make an ass of myself as much, if not more so, than the next person.]

There was a great quote in the book that highlighted one of my biggest problems when it comes to holding conversations with anyone, and I think it’s a huge problem with a lot of people and the book explains this perfectly:

“By the time you finish your education, you have a virtual Ph.D. in catching trivial differences and turning them into a major deal. So when another person offers up a suggestion (based on facts and stories), you’re looking to disagree. And when you do find a minor difference, you turn this snack into a meal. Instead of remaining in healthy dialogue, you end up in violent agreement.” (157)

Since I’ve finished the book I’ve definitely noticed when this happens to me and I’ve actively stayed conscious of when I’m doing this and back off. I think more people need to be aware that schooling trains us to do this and it causes a lot of conversations to go sour.

The hardest part while reading this book was looking back at the numerous failed conversations I’ve had over the past two years from the ending of a relationship to a super rocky situation with my roommate among other personal and professional issues that I didn’t/don’t share with everyone. My biggest problem is not sharing my emotions and then having them explode in a burst,

“Let’s face it. When it comes to our strongest views, passion can be our enemy. Of course, feeling strongly about something isn’t bad in and of itself. It’s okay to have strong opinions. The problem comes when we try to express them.” (139)

Crucial Conversations showed me many things I did right in many situations, but it also pointed out many of the (now) glaringly obvious things I didn’t do right. Hindsight is 20/20 right? I’m not going to lie it still hurts and I’m still disappointed in myself thinking about my behavior and actions, or lack thereof. What makes it worse is that I met people and made friends during that time of my life that only know me as they saw me over those few months and holding up a mirror to quite possibly the worst example of my life (behavioral with the exception of my terrible twos) is not easy. Knowing there are people who only know me as that person is gut wrenching. I can only say I’m not that person so many times and can only hope that as time progresses they’ll see the real me.

In contrast to this, I’m proud to say I recently had a “crucial conversation” with a friend. I was shocked at my openness and willingness to have our discussion and I think part of it is because I knew that regardless of the outcome I wanted us to both be happy. When you throw in that what I had to hear about myself and my actions over the past year was harsh and incredibly eye-opening and hurt to my core, I’m still glad I had the conversation.

I knew going in regardless of the outcome of the conversation, and knowing there was only one outcome at this time and place I had it anyway, that having the conversation was important for both of us. I might not be happy about the outcome, and might still be hurting from the much-needed feedback, but I know that personal happiness for both of us is what I really wanted and focusing on that made hearing what I needed to hear a lot easier. I can still hope that a similar conversation in the future would go differently, but even if the conversation never happens I now know things to work on that can only improve me as a person. (And no the irony of this being posted on Valentine’s Day is not lost on me.)

Recommendation: It’s an interesting read and provides excellent summaries at the end of each chapter. I can see if you own a copy of this book it being helpful to read it one chapter at a time and practicing what you learn in the chapter. Unfortunately I got this from the library and read it pretty quickly. I again enjoyed that the examples spanned all walks of life from parent/child and spouses/partners to coworkers and boss/subordinate.

Opening Line: “When people first hear the term ‘crucial conversation,’ many conjure up images of presidents, emperors, and prime ministers seated around a massive table while they debate the future of the world.”

Closing Line: “Help strengthen organizations, solidify families, heal communities, and shore up nations one person—one crucial conversation—at a time.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)


10 thoughts on “Book 258: Crucial Conversations – Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler”

  1. This looks like a really interesting book. I think I’m pretty bad at hard conversation, mainly because I’m a middle child and have a very strong sense of justice, so I go into it convinced of my own rightness and don’t do a very good job of listening to the other person. Alternately, if I don’t have a strong personal stake in the issue, I tend to just want to avoid conflict and end up telling the other person what they want to hear. Either wa


    1. Yeah, it was interesting the way they talked about that we’re raised to go into conversations thinking we’re right and we’re taught how to tear down others conversations without actually thinking about them.

      It was definitely eye opening to read it.


  2. This sounds an extremely interesting book. I’m a naturally very quiet person and despite being almost an unmentionable age (new decade) it has only been in the last few years that I’ve actually opened up and speak more than a few words, especially to strangers.

    I still sometimes get anxious so feel I miss some of what people say and tend to only ‘get it’ later when I’ve relaxed. Or I don’t say enough or come across a little defensive – which gets mistaken for aggression. There have been times recently when this might have been useful!

    May have to check this one out.


    1. It was interesting and I truly appreciated that it wasn’t like ‘here’s how to fix everything’, it took the broader approach of here are things that could happen and ideas you could use to manage them.


  3. Definitely a book for thought and practice. I find that I have to go back and reread the book – also Crucial Confrontations. Would like to a version that is more personal relationship orientated rather that towards work situations. Also a condensed version so that I can read the nitty gritty rather than having to plod through some wonderful reflection that I would value at a later time but not when I really just want the nuts and bolts.


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