Fierce Conversations

"When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration.  Think cultural transformation. Think of leadership."

- Fierce Conversations, preface

I read a lot for work, and rarely have I been as completely consumed with the contents of a book, or seen the potential to use the lessons from it, as I have with this book.  Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations is an incredible tool for anyone looking to improve the depth and effectiveness of their conversations, whether at work or at home.  This book is essential for leaders, coaches, and anyone who has relationships they feel could improve.

Scott’s book provides a system for moving beyond the superficial level of interactions we often allow ourselves to have, and pursue deeper and richer connections as a result.

Interested in building deeper relationships?






The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Conversation Is The Relationship

"Never mistake talking for conversation."
- Fierce Conversations, page 228

Every time you have a conversation with your employees, your partner, a friend or your child, the words you exchange define your relationship with them.  The words you say, the ones you withhold; the thoughts, tone and feelings you convey are all elements that define your relationship with the other person.  Too often, we hold back, or worse, allow ourselves to be distracted rather than giving the other person the respect of our complete presence.  We need to remember that our conversations are our relationships, and we need to work hard to bring the fullness of ourselves to every conversation we have.

How can you begin to change the quality of your conversations with the people who matter in your life?

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Go Deep - Interrogate Reality

"Recognize that there is something within us that responds deeply to people who level with us, who do not pamper us or offer compromises but, instead, describe reality so simply and compellingly that the truth seems inevitable."
- Fierce Conversations, page 19

Scott tells us, “you get what you tolerate”, and she pushes us to pursue deeper conversations that draw out the core truths, and address the underlying issues.  You may suspect that there are issues in your team or organization, but if you only skim the surface and fail to deal with the deeper realities, you will never address the problem.  She asks, “What are you pretending not to know?”

Scott provides a model called “Mineral Rights” (think “mining for gold”) plus lists of probing questions for engaging in effective one-on-one meetings with your team.  Ask them to bring their most important issues to your meetings, and guide the conversations with your questions, not by telling them what to do.  Try saying “What topic are you hoping I won’t bring up today?” or “If nothing changes, what is likely to happen?” and see what conversations unfold.

As real conversations begin, real emotions may emerge, and you need to be ready.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Combine Honesty With Compassion

"Take responsibility for your emotional wake."
- Fierce Conversations, page 187

When you show up and get real in your conversations, you have to be ready to manage the emotions that can be generated as a result.  Digging deeper and being honest does not give you the right to simply unload blunt statements on the other person and end it there – you must slow down and think about the effect the conversation is having on them.  Take time to complete the conversation.

Scott reminds us that each perspective needs to be honoured, and everyone shares in creating the full picture of reality in any given situation.  She coaches us to use silence, noting “the more emotionally loaded the subject, the more silence is required.”  Silence allows us to regroup, and create space for additional comments.  Wait and see what else emerges.

“Being real is not the risk. The real risk is that:
I will be known.
I will be seen.
I will be changed.


All of this talk about getting real or managing emotions may feel overwhelming to some, and unnecessary to others, but at the very least, I encourage you to think about any issues in your life you may be avoiding.   What truths are keeping you from building meaningful connections in your life?  What is holding you back in your conversations or keeping you from getting real with those who matter to you most?

“…so often people forget that one of the fiercest conversations any of us can have is to tell someone how important he or she is in our lives, how much we love and value that person.”

Think about your own life, the conversations you have every day, and the relationships you cherish.  Are you showing up fully in your life every day?  Where do you need to get fierce?

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Alyssa Burkus

ABOUT Alyssa Burkus

As a consultant, I work with entrepreneurs and senior leaders through periods of significant change in their organizations, by delivering strategies, new programs, and coaching to build the workplace foundation they need to shift their company to new levels...
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