Crucial Conversations [Book]

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition , by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switler is a book that is widely considered a must-read for anyone in a  position where they might disagree with someone. It walks you through how to have a successful crucial conversation, which is defined as:

A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong. (3)

There are many instances in the scriptures where crucial conversations happen. Patterson suggests that the best way to deal with these crucial conversations is to:

Prepare for high-stakes situations with a proven technique
Transform Anger and hurt feelings into powerful emotions
Make it safe to talk about almost anything
Be persuasive, not abrasive

One thing I really like about Crucial Conversations is that it never says you need to just be nice and worry about hurting other peoples’ feelings. The whole point is to be honest and totally open, even if that honesty is hard to hear. The important thing is that the dialogue happens, and happens continually. Dialogue is the “free flow of meaning between two people” (20).

In the Book of Mormon, Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom have a crucial conversation. It starts by Alma preaching to Zeezrom, then Amulek gives it a shot. Zeezrom says that he will give Amulek money if he denies the Christ. Amulek refuses, then calls Zeezrom on his foul ideas.

This qualifies as a crucial conversations for the following reasons:

  1. Stakes were high because Zeezrom had the potential to destroy a lot of work that Alma and Amulek had been doing.
  2. Alma and Amulek were devoted to preaching the gospel, and Zeezrom was devoted to derailing their teachings, so opinions varied greatly.
  3. Emotions were running strong. Amulek snapped at Zeezrom after Zeezrom tried to give him money to get him to deny his testimony, “O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me?” (Alma 11:23)

In Crucial Conversations, the authors state that the best place to start with crucial conversations is with heart: “Skilled people Start with Heart. That is, they begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused no matter what happens” (30). Alma and Amulek were there to preach the gospel. They had no intention of forcing anyone to change their mind or forcing anyone to do anything they didn’t want to. That is not how the gospel of Christ operates. But, they did stay focused on sharing their testimonies and trying to help all come unto Christ.

In the end, Zeezrom was silenced by the power of their testimony of Jesus. He was wracked with guilt, and was near death when Alma and Amulek saw him again. He gave in to the concensus method of decision making (which is really the only method that can be allowed in salvation-related crucial conversations). Zeezrom “honestly agreed to one decision” (166), the decision to believe in Christ. When he made this decision, he was saved from death.

What other crucial conversations happened in the scriptures?

Amulek, Alma, and Zeezrom