Thursday, January 29, 2015

Changing The Conversation by Dana Caspersen

Everyone has conflict in their lives, whether it is with a significant other, children, co-workers, strangers or supervisors.  Changing The Conversation explains how we might work through conflicts more effectively by changing the ways we communicate in them.  The first instinct is to state one's position, then concentrate on counter-arguments to points put forward by the other person.  However if one can listen and understand the focus of the disagreement, odds of a resolution that is satisfactory to each party are increased.

The book is organized around seventeen principles of conflict resolution.  These seventeen principles are grouped into three main areas.  The first, Facilitate Listening And Speaking deals with areas like resisting the urge to attack, defining what is important to each party in the disagreement, acknowledging emotions, making fact-based observations rather than evaluations and testing the assumptions you've made by listening.  The second, Change The Conversation, focuses on areas such as figuring out what's happening rather than focusing on fault, being curious, and stopping if you are making things worse.  The third, Look For Ways Forward, talks about assuming undiscovered options exist, being explicit about agreements and planning for future conflict. 

The text is laid out in concise words, giving examples of how a principle might play out.  For example, under the Acknowledge Emotions, one scenario is acknowledging the other party's emotions.  The unhelpful way to express this might be:  "What are you acting all upset about?  What did I do wrong now?"  while a better way might be:  "You seem frustrated.  Is it because you were expecting me to do something differently?"  Multiple examples are given of restating ideas in a manner that pushes the conversation forward rather than stalling it in anger and confrontation.

Dana Caspersen has a degree in conflict studies and mediation.  She works as a mediator, teacher and creator of public dialogue processes.  Readers can quickly read though this book and discover new and better ways of handling conflicts and then keep it nearby as a reference in the future.  This book is recommended for parents, employers and employees and those in relationships.  It is a book that can help anyone if the principles stated are taken seriously and acted upon.

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