“The world changes when people have to deal with a very risky issue and either do it poorly or do it well.”
– authors of Crucial Conversations
by Nicole Gibson
Peacemaking happens in big ways and in very small ways. It happens between conflicting people groups in the world and between individuals in the smallest of conversations. It happens between those of different religious or political backgrounds and between a domestic couple trying to make a decision.
Peacemaking is about relating to those who differ from us, and we deal with people every day who differ from us in one way or another. For example, a boss who’s made a decision we strongly disagree with or a coworker we feel has been stepping on our toes. Or a loved one making destructive relationship choices. Or a significant other we don’t see eye-to-eye with about a touchy financial issue.
These are all situations where peace is either nurtured or broken down. In every one of these situations, and countless others like them, we must ask ourselves, “Can I dialogue with this person and address our differences while still maintaining relationship?”
In peacemaking, we often talk about this kind of thing on a large scale, but it actually applies to everyday relationships and conversations, and that’s what makes this book such a gem. The principles in Crucial Conversations empower us to both talk about the hard things AND maintain relationship. They give us the tools to “talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, and controversial topics.”
Though not written from a Jesus-centered perspective, the authors start with the principle of “working on me first, us second,” which calls to mind Jesus’s teaching about not trying to take a speck out of someone else’s eye until we’ve gotten the plank out of our own.
The authors then go into detail about something essential to crucial conversations: maintaining safety. That is, making sure that both parties feel safe enough to express themselves openly in the conversation. This is, the authors say, the only way for dialogue to continue. “If you make it safe enough, you can talk about almost anything and people will listen.” Conversely, “If you don’t fear that you’re being attacked or humiliated, you yourself can hear almost anything and not become defensive” (p 55).
This is a book about how to foster healthy conversations about tough issues and maintain open communication in potentially explosive situations. Imagine how different our lives and relationships, not to mention our ability to affect positive change in the world, can be if we put a little effort into improving our skills in this area. It seems to me that if we can do that, we will become powerful peacemakers in all our spheres of life.
I know that, personally, this book has drastically changed the way I communicate. As you read this book and start practicing your own crucial conversations (or if you’ve read it before), share your stories, and let’s learn from one another.