What do you really need to say to someone? Are there conversations out there with your name on them? Are there parts of you that are failing to show up in your conversations?

I’ve recently read an extremely interesting and practical book called Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott . It is an incredibly practical guide for anyone looking to improve the depth and effectiveness of their conversations, moving beyond the superficial level of interactions we often allow ourselves to have, and pursuing deeper and richer connections as a result.

Here are my top take-aways


Key Quotes :

“Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time”. 

“One of the greatest gifts we can give another is the purity of our attention.” 

“Never mistake talking for conversation.”

5 key ideas:

  1. A fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. What we tend to do instead of having a fierce conversation is that we tell ourselves we are softening the message so as not to hurt someone else’s feelings; while we are actually trying to protect ourselves and avoid conflict.
  2. When a conversation is real , change occurs before the conversation is over. Too often we have what Scott calls a “too careful conversation”; we are too poised, inhibited, and not willing to be vulnerable: this is a “failed conversation”. We suffer burnout as a result, as we try to solve the same problem over and over again. The problem named is the problem solved. Identify and then confront the real obstacles in your path through having a conversation about it.
  3. When we have a conversation we leave an emotional wake. There is no trivial comment, something we may not remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone who looked to us for support and approval.
  4. The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. By slowing down our conversations we allow insight to occur in the space between the words and thereby discover what the conversation really wants and needs to be about.
  5. During a fierce conversation, people don’t cling to their positions as the undeniable truth; instead they consider their views as hypotheses to be explored and tested. A fierce conversation happens through the objective of getting everyone’s reality out in the open, where it can be interrogated. Remember: Everyone owns a piece of the truth about reality 

5 Key Steps to a Fierce Conversation:

  1. Begin listening to yourself as you’ve never listened before. Become highly attuned to when you are avoiding a topic, changing the subject, being imprecise in your language, holding back from what you really want to say, telling little lies (and big ones!).
  2. Start from a point of view where you have plenty of questions and zero answers so that your goal is to truly understand the other person. Clarify at the outset that your intention is to move towards resolving any issue and acknowledge where you have contributed to the problem.
  3. Remain totally present: Be Here Now. Use silence as a tool to slow down the conversation.
  4. You have a right to clarify your position, state your view of reality, and ask for what you want. Be Specific. Equally if someone takes you up on your invitation to challenge your strongly held opinion, resist the temptation to defend your idea immediately. Start practising describing reality accurately without laying blame. Scott states that the problem named is the problem solved and advises that we should name the behaviour that is causing the problem and its impact on us. If there are a number of issues , identify the aspect that is at the root of the problem and then work together to solve it.
  5. Ask powerful questions to really help you understand another’s point of view and avoid leading questions such as “Do you think the problem might be..?”. Consider what questions you really want to ask ; notice what your inner voice is telling you, for instance

” I know I need to raise this..”  “What question if left unasked would render this conversation a fruitless exercise?”

Benefits of fierce conversations 

Simply paying fierce attention to another, really asking, and really listening, (even during the briefest of conversations) can evoke such a brilliant response. Anyone with whom you have this conversation will go away from it having enjoyed your complete attention and feeling known and understood by you…..a very rare and wonderful thing!

Often goals are accomplished through others so this will be largely down to making every conversation you have as real as possible. We influence through a combination of our mindset and our language and the two are very much intertwined.

What’s on the other side of your toughest issue and hence the fierce conversation is worth it: relief, improved physical and mental health, freedom from stress, happiness, a fulfilling personal relationship. 

Over to you….

So, identify the conversations out there with your name on them. What are your most pressing issues? Resolve to have a conversation with courage, vulnerability and authenticity. And at least once today, when something inside you says: “this is an opportunity to be fierce”… stop, breathe and come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.

And do let me know how you get on…..

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