Among the negotiation books I have been going through the last month or two is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. There’s a lot on this one out on the internet so I don’t need to get into it too much. But there’s some simple and very helpful aspects of this book when it comes to interpersonal negotiation on the relational side – particularly when things are in danger of escalating towards conflict.
One of the things I like is that the authors start with the heart. They explore some of the centrality of identity and motivation in high stakes conversations before getting into communication strategy and technique. A lot of the book aims at self-reflection and self-awareness as to what is driving our engagement with others and what our emotions might reveal about the heart.
This book is grounded in a storytelling approach to high emotion conflict or negotiation. That’s one of the strengths of the book – it’s focused on the intersection of two stories and how to navigate emotion in establishing shared meaning.
In this discussion, there are 3 “clever stories” the authors discuss as the common strategies people use to justify their position or situation rather than really learn and listen. There are victim, villain, and helpless stories. I find that these 3 stories cover a lot of ground when people are stuck and limited in conflict.
There’s helpful chapters on listening, emotional self-awareness, asking questions, and discerning safety through personal clues or from another person. This dimension of equipping people how to assess safety with a view of how to build it or restore it is a pretty practical and helpful resource for what is a pretty crucial skill set for most leaders.
I would check it – at the very least you can google some summaries and find some good stuff out there. But it’s a great resource to have on the shelf and to use as a teaching and training tool.