Gaining relevant leadership and managerial skills is my top priority as a young professional recently promoted to manager, which is why Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High (third edition) by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory was recommended to me as essential reading. This book is an in-depth look at how to communicate effectively in many of life’s key dialogues.


First, the authors dive into what crucial conversations are and why many people avoid them, stressing how important they truly are with relevant statistics and metrics. They note that “mountains of research suggest that the negative feelings we hold in and the emotional pain we suffer as we stumble our way through unhealthy conversations slowly eat away at our health.” They then detail how to master all of the various dialogues that senior leaders, managers, and employees engage in to gain positive, concrete results from those conversations. The book features real-world examples from a variety of sources and characterizes each type of conversation by its own set of strategies and goals organized into acronyms to make them easy to remember.


The book also contains valuable information on the changing landscape of modern management, including cultivating virtual relationships and leading remote teams. In virtual-only or hybrid workplaces, leaders who define communication norms and create a proper foundation of meaningful feedback fuel the crucial conversations that will define manager-employee and coworker relationships.


The authors describe best practices to digest feedback that may not be favorable, then explore how to respectfully disagree with the person giving the feedback. By reflecting on the intent and expectations of the feedback, we can put aside our gut reactions “to a verbal wallop that rocks your psychological footing” and refocus on what’s important. This will keep the conversation productive for all parties involved.


Ensuring that you have the knowledge to handle crucial conversations is essential. This book details communication best practices and then asks the reader, “Think of your own important relationships: Are there crucial conversations that you’re currently avoiding or handling poorly? Do you walk away from some issues only to charge recklessly into others?” If you answered “yes” to either of those questions or simply want to sharpen your communication skills, then Crucial Conversations is the book for you.


About the Authors