Friday, September 04, 2009

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (Book Review)

One of the advantages of having a wife pursue a graduate degree is that you can pick the interesting books to read from her pile of assigned books while bypassing the rest.

When I noticed my wife reading Fierce Conversations, I was immediately interested. The text purported to summarize author and seasoned facilitator Susan Scott's methods and best practices in helping communicate more effectively, including breaking through on tough, seemingly intractable issues. While Fierce Conversations has clearly been marketed as a business book for managers and executives, it seemed to me that at root it was about communication, and, if its message was sound, could be useful to anyone.

After reading the book, I would recommend it to anyone, or at least anyone wishing to communicate and listen better. Because, in essence, Fierce Conversations is about returning to authentic conversations and really listening and giving people your full attention while communicating. It seems so simple, but, as Scott demonstrates through numerous examples, many people struggle communicating: they talk over people, or they fear undiscussables, or they don't really listen.

Scott shows the way forward first by emphasizing the need to be in the conversation and listen fully. Then she demonstrates useful models to consider using, such as the Mineral Rights model that starts with an identification of the most pressing issue and ends with a commitment to action. She also provides many practical exercises to foster better conversations.

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