Live Better: Crucial Conversations Notes

Ross Llewallyn

Marla has been doing a wonderful job picking out fascinating topics to explore and discuss with attendees of our Live Better groups, which have taken place before monthly potlucks and going forward before assemblies! I felt there were so many good ideas coming from this Sunday’s discussion that I just had to share. Many of these pithy ideas come from the source material for the meeting: Crucial Conversations, which was the subject of the last book club, as well! The book shares insights in the flaws of our brain in having really important conversations and how to work around them, as well as how best to think about these discussions and make them useful.

  • Our bodies (and brains) are wired to avoid or shut down at crucial conversations. Being aware of that frees oneself up to not feel immediately at fault and analyze the reaction.
    • Disagreements can go on for years, even when it’s just lack of respect or lack of mutual understanding.
  • The goal of a good conversation should be the “free flow of meaning”. It shouldn’t be to “win” or exert power or manipulate people.
    • A “pool of shared meaning” is ideally created where everyone has mutual understanding of everyone else’s perspective, desires, and opinions on a subject. This is necessary to actually have dialog.
    • Even disagreements can be in the pool!
  • Slow Down! Study why and how you’re saying what you’re saying, and whether you’re listening enough. Take time to consider the situation before responding. Give yourself time for an emotional reaction to dissipate.
    • A question I had: does online, asynchronous communication serve the “slow down” purpose?
  • Conversations are best when both participants feel safe. Approach conversations with consent, for example.
    • The cost of endlessly avoiding crucial conversations by not consenting is the loss of the relationship itself. It’s not inconsequential.
  • “Violence” and “Silence” are two paths our lizard brain uses to avoid crucial conversations.
    • Violence isn’t just physical: it can appear in one’s volume, in using power dynamics, or more.
    • Silence isn’t just that: it can be withholding relevant information, stifling important emotion, or even use of subtle sarcasm.
  • Conversations are best had when participants feel safe.
    • Friend/family interventions for addiction lead with talk of compassion and positive intention for a reason!
    • Acknowledgement that a participant’s concern or emotion is in the pool (or shared meaning) can put that participant at ease.
    • Contrast perceived intent or tone with your actual purpose: “I don’t mean to… But what I need…”
    • Address emotions to move forward in the conversation and respect participants.
  • Actual malicious people who will abuse these rules and techniques are rare! More likely you don’t have their context to understand their motivations and actions.
  • We jump to stories based on what we see and hear that might not be right. Humans love to create narratives at the expense of factual reality!

Those were my notes from the over-one-hour conversation that only covered part of the concepts of the book! I really enjoyed the discussion and am quite glad I went. Check it out next time!

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