Review: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzer

I’ve heard my best friend sing the praises of this book for some time now. I guess I thought it was more of a business leadership book (it is that also). But now that I’ve read it I think it’s a “must have” book for both therapists and clients. This is literally the best book on communication that I’ve ever read. They give lots of relationship examples in addition to business examples. We communicate. with everyone we come in contact with – so yes, this works if you are in business, but it also works if you’re a stay at home mom trying to communicate with your kids or partner – and everyone in between.

Basically, a conversation becomes crucial whenever you are having a difference of opinion with someone that is causing emotions to run high. Sounds familiar right? We all have those! They start with asking you to work on yourself. Do you know what you want and what you don’t want? The want is usually easy – I go into a conversation knowing what I want. But what about what I don’t want? I want to achieve my outcome, but I don’t wan’t to have a fight, become estranged or end up hating each other. We so often forget that we need to find a way to talk about what we want without endangering the relationship.

The authors talk about how to recognize when safety has been lost in a conversation, because people will stop talking or start fighting when they don’t feel safe. They teach you how to restore the safety of the conversation so that you can get back to the topic at hand. They talk about the stories we tell ourselves in these situations and the assumptions that we make that can take a conversation off track. And they teach you how to be persuasive without being abrasive.

They then move to the other person and teach how to continue a productive conversation when the other person isn’t managing it well, either retreating into silence or blowing up. They talk about how to make sure that what is decided in the conversation actually turns into results and action. And finally, they give a whole bunch of examples of situations you might run into that would be challenging.

I honestly think every single one of my couples should read this book before we even start therapy, because it would just give us a solid foundation to start with. I can’t think of a single person who would not benefit from this book. Buy it, read it, and go forth to have better conversations!

The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from each purchase.

Review: Why Couples Fight by Mira Kirshenbaum

Mira Kirshenbaum has written a wealth of books (mostly about couples) and the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere are consistently 4.5-5 stars. This book is specific to fighting and working out conflicts. There was only one thing I didn’t like about this book and that was what I considered the unprofessional kind of language that she uses. I know I’m not reading a textbook, but saying things like “Look, I ain’t gonna hype you”, makes me think of something my teenager would write. I get that she is trying to be relatable, but I don’t think you have to do it that way. It’s really a small complaint, but it was bugging me throughout.

There wasn’t anything I read in this book that I didn’t already know as a couples therapist. However, if you are a therapist who doesn’t specifically specialize in couples therapy, or if you are just a person who is part of a couple trying to work out conflicts, I think the information is super useful.

I feel like there is kind of two parts to this book. The first part is where she claims that “power moves” are the main (only?) culprit in couples being unable to resolve conflict. And because she knows that many people will not resonate with that, she goes to great length to define power moves, giving a lot of examples and stories. The bottom line is that anything I say or do that makes my partner feel disempowered is a power move, even if that was totally not my intention.

Then she moves on to her solution, which she calls the “1, 2, 3, Method”. For any conflict there are three steps: 1. fully understand and hear each other, 2. explore a ton of options, and 3. brainstorm solutions and decide. This sounds crazy simple, but obviously it’s not or we would all be doing it! In my experience, couples go into conversations like this knowing already what they want and therefore they don’t hear each other, they only have one option idea (theirs) and therefore they never get to step 3. This is the kind of process that any couples therapist will lead you through but the book is intended to help couples do it on their own.

She also talks about some topics that are specifically problematic, like money and sex, because they have inherent power issues attached. All in all, I think the book could be useful to laypeople or therapists who only see couples occasionally and don’t have a ton of skill in resolving difficult arguments. This book comes out January 2021 and is available for pre-order now at the link below.

Disclaimer: the link above is an Amazon affiliate link, for which I receive a small compensation. My summaries are NOT intended to replace purchasing the book; they are simply intended to save you time if you do not currently have time to read the whole book, or in this case, to access the main points while you wait for the book to become available.