“Social first aid.” That sounds like something I could use. In Chapter Four of Crucial Conversations, the authors deal with three conversation killers: being unaware that a crucial conversation is occurring, misreading or being oblivious to how others feel, and being similarly oblivious to your own responses to stress. They describe unhealthy responses to crucial conversations in two categories: “silence” and “violence.” Silence is avoidance and withdrawal, while violence is verbally attacking, controlling, or belittling. I wish they could have selected a less violent word for the latter category, but I guess they were going for rhyme.
The book has a lengthier assessment which better explains the choices I make in crucial conversations. Basically, I choose one of three defaults: avoidance (I delay answering emails which might entangle me in difficult issues), masking my true feelings (“softening” my remarks in an apologetic or falsely flattering manner), and attempting to control others (what I think is right and I will exaggerate to prove my point). Based upon their assessment, the authors suggest which chapters are most helpful for improving my ability to talk to others when the stakes are high. I think I need to read and study all of it (duh), because I certainly want to become more effective in this realm.
The good news is that I am more effective in listening and participating in student-related issues than personal ones. I guess that’s good news. I have blown crucial conversations in all areas, though, so I am ready to learn these new skills. It’s never too late!
If you want to take the assessment yourself, click on this link and scroll down: Style Under Stress.
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