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

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time - Susan Scott, Kenneth H. Blanchard Most business books suck. (see spoiler for details And my complaints with this book are the same as for the rest of them. They are all: 1) …full of anecdotes which sound made-up.✓ Check. The friend whose wife was throwing him out of the house, who had all the black garbage bags full of clothes.2) …full of corny analogies.✓ Check. The “emotional wake” boat analogy. The crucible analogy…3) ...full of corny/cutesy jargon.✓ Check. Scott invents the term "versations" as the opposite of "conversations". Ugh.4) …full of obvious “advice” which nobody should need to have told to them.✓ Check. Communication is important in business and personal relationships. Honesty is important for meaningful communication. One should have some objective in mind when starting a conversation in a business setting (everybody’s time is important).5) …full of shameless self-promotion.✓ Check. The author has a consulting business which gets frequent mention.6) …loaded with excessive optimism, which somehow makes them feel dismissive of the challenges they are trying to overcome. In my eyes, this makes them less serious and less credible.✓Check. Lots and lots of bubbly optimism.)OMG look at what a dick I am! Elizabeth recommended this book, was nice enough to share it, and here I am trashing it! I came to that realization on about page 60, and decided that nobody ever grew as a person by being sarcastic, so then I tried to give Fierce Conversations an honest-to-goodness try. On further reflection, I think it has some worthwhile points.The book‘s focus is on communication, which is always a big deal at work. Having clear, two-way conversations with colleagues, bosses and subordinates is an invaluable skill, yet it isn’t something that is really taught, and so it often doesn’t come easily. I liked the vignette about Sam and Jackie in chapter 4, and the tips Scott offers (the list beginning on page 149) for communicating directly and honestly. One thing I admit I have done in the past is the “too many pillows” pitfall… trying to balance criticism with complements. The danger of this is sending a mixed message, where the person may come away from the conversation thinking your main intent was complementary, when really it was critical. Next time, I’ll just tear my employee a new one! (j/k). Seriously, this is the sort of honesty and directness which the book deals with. It reminds me of that 1990 movie Crazy People,where Dudley Moore plays an ad exec who has a nervous breakdown, and produces a series of blatantly truthful advertisements. Here are two: I was also reminded of the movie Jerry Maguire, where the title character (Tom Cruise) writes a completely honest mission statement about how he thinks his firm is corrupt, and what should be done to fix it. In both films, of course, the fierce honesty is ultimately rewarded. The thing is, I’ve personally seen instances where fierce honesty wasn’t welcomed. Maybe it should be, but it isn’t always appreciated. It isn’t that that dishonesty is preferable, but the amount and form of the “fierceness” should be guided by one’s own judgment about the people one works with. A second lesson in the book deals with the concept of being “fully present” during personal interactions. I am guilty of sometimes reading email while I am on the phone, thus not giving the person I am speaking with my fullest attention. Likewise, I’ve answered text messages while attending a meeting, and I’ve even spoken on the phone to one person while trying to have a live conversation with somebody sitting in my office! I don’t do these things to be rude. They’re a compromise- a way I try to divide up my time when several things seem to need my attention at once. It’s called “multitasking”, when we want to put a positive spin on it, but it’s also still rude, and is off-putting to those we are trying to interact with. I should know; I’ve been on the other end of those situations too. The opposite of multitasking is being fully devoted to the person you want to communicate with. The disadvantage of this is that you often need to limit the time of the interaction more rigidly: “I have five minutes to talk about this…”, which might seem rude too. I’m going to try to be more “fully present” and I’ll let you all know how it goes…Thanks, Elizabeth!