The ClientWise Blog

Real Conversations

Posted by Chris Holman on Jul 5, 2011 1:43:00 PM

There’s a coffee shop that I have frequented early in the AM for my morning machiato, 4-5 days a week for the past six months. My conversations with the barista have always been very pleasant, very brief…and very superficial. It was never my intention to be aloof or indifferent to the barista, but I’ve never really stepped outside the exchange of banal pleasantries.

Until just the other day. I don’t remember how the conversation began. But, in a short period of time I learned that the barista is an aspiring elementary school teacher, who has been under-employed during this terrible job market. She was thrilled to tell me that she was recently able to find a summer gig teaching fifth grade in a tough inner-city school. Despite the inherent challenges with her summer assignment, it was obvious that school-teaching is her passion. We spoke for five minutes about her class in a conversation that was engaged, animated, and interesting.

I thought of this experience as I read Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, by Susan Scott.

What an engaging read! The essential premise of the book is the absolute primacy of the conversation. In the words of Ms. Scott, “While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage, or a life…any single conversation can.”


“The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller, until one day we hear ourselves in mid-sentence, making ourselves smaller in every encounter, behaving as if we are just the space around our shoes, engaged in yet another 3-minute conversation so empty of meaning it crackles.”

This is not your typical light summer reading fare. However, it is chock-full of valuable insights and observations. Consider her, “7 Principles of Fierce Conversations”:

  1. Master the courage to interrogate reality.
  2. Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.
  3. Be here…prepared to be nowhere else.
  4. Tackle your toughest challenge today.
  5. Obey your instincts.
  6. Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
  7. Let silence do the heavy lifting.

Does your life suffer from an over-abundance of trivial pseudo-conversations? Read this book!

You may not be able to ask, “How are you?” without really meaning it to a random stranger…ever again.

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Topics: Communication