In recent years, there has been widespread interest in books recommending “fierce” or “difficult” conversations. While these best-sellers offer many excellent communication tips, I worry that some of their most enthusiastic adherents can seem more eager for the “fierce” (i.e., “confrontational”) part of the concept than the “conversation” (i.e., mutual, respectful exchange of ideas) part. As a brief anecdote involving two former colleagues illustrates, “fierce” and “constructive” aren’t necessarily the same thing.
A Tale of Two Colleagues
“Colleague A” is fiercely bright, passionate about a wide range of subjects, and eager to engage in stimulating debate to help focus and fine-tune his ideas and theories. He feels morally compelled to question approaches to problems until rigorous, high-quality answers and results are achieved – all to the good. Not surprisingly, he is a strong proponent of “fierce” conversations. Also not surprisingly, this can overwhelm those who don’t share exactly his same sensibilities (i.e., almost everyone else). He is known to Continue reading