A Toolkit for Mutual Success in Difficult Situations

By Paul G. Willson

crucialconversationsCrucial Conversations strives to do exactly what its title states, which is to provide a set of helpful tools for when a person enters into a situation where verbal skills are critical to a positive outcome.

We all are involved in crucial conversations with clients, employees, board members, shareholders, regulators, friends and family members on a frequent basis, so it makes sense to prepare for them in a positive and thoughtful way. The authors have observed that some individuals are naturally good at making these key interactions successful for all involved, so they researched and reverse engineered what those people did or said when involved in an important and challenging interaction.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who had heard me say that I was looking for a method to create real and positive dialogue on several fronts. Ironically, when I mentioned that I was studying this book to one of my regulatory contacts, she said that it had been recommended to her that she study it as well, which I considered to be both enlightening and a good sign, especially considering the most crucial interactions bankers have are often with those regulators. To be fair, they also face stress in their dialogues with us. In the meantime, I have recommended this book to several friends facing touchy family situations. While the results of those conversations were mixed, at least those who made the attempt to use the methods suggested by the authors of Crucial Conversations came away feeling that they had made the best effort possible.

Few of us have had any real training on, or given much thought to, how we approach a verbal setting that provides for the very best positive outcome. Crucial Conversations works to give the reader the insight necessary to create an environment where the most good can be achieved.

The techniques discussed are not designed for the reader to be the sole winner in these situations, but they give the reader the best chance to set the appropriate stage for mutual success. This book presents numerous examples of uses of these insights, and the most impressive ones are those that illustrate positive outcomes in difficult family situations that have been brewing for years.

This book helps create a helpful matrix of human behavior, recognizable by us all, which has helped me recognize various types of human behaviors and what underlies those behaviors. That has already helped me to deal more successfully with several crucial conversations of my own.

Let me stress again that this book, and its supporting website—crucialconversations.com—are not designed to help the reader achieve dominance or a win where your colleague, friend or family member loses. Its goal is to give the reader useful tools and techniques that help all involved to improve their positions and achieve outcomes that exceed all reasonable expectations.

Paul G. Willson is chairman of Citizens National Bank in Athens, Tenn., and a member of the editorial board of the ABA Banking Journal.