Updated: Aug 23, 2020
This is an overview of the book "Fierce Conversations - Achieving success in work and in life, one conversation at a time". by Susan Scott. I have added a Biblical context in the overview as the book is not written for a Christian audience.
Ephesians 4:16 has been a verse that God has had me come back to many times. Why is this so challenging? As Christians, we have been aware of the supernatural power of God and desired for God to ZAP us so all our problems are dealt with and we are free of suffering, pain and dysfunctional relationships. God, in His wisdom, can do this; but He has this as His Plan B. His Plan A is to have the body of Christ to minister and to build up each other in love!! Healing and restoration is a process that is done through the body of Christ, in the body of Christ and through Christ in others. He ministers through others to bring healing and wholeness... This process brings total healing, growth and maturity through the Holy Spirit that enables us to grow into becoming the people He has made us be. Through this process, we grow into mature sons and daughters of God who can work with Him to bring restoration to others and to the earth.
Susan Scott has written a book titled "Fierce Conversations - Achieving success in work and in life, one conversation at a time". The book is a model of how this process works. God is calling us to be mature in the way we communicate with others. To speak the truth but in a way that love is central to every conversation. As we do this, strongholds in our minds can be broken and God will raise people in relationships that have integrity, freedom with the ability to walk in unity,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— Ephesians 4:15 NKJV
As you read this, be encouraged to seek God in changing how you think. The way of relating to others in our culture brings dysfunction, disunity, anger, bitterness and the seeking of our own agenda. As we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us we are empowered to discern God's heart, will and words that will cause us and those around us to grow into that amazing "Body of Christ" that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20.
2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:2 TPT
What is a fierce conversation?
We grow or destroy relationships one conversation at a time. One conversation has the power to change the trajectory of a relationship in either a positive or negative way. Learning to have fierce conversations means that through how you communicate you purposefully work to grow relationships that are rewarding and deep. Each conversation is important. Having fierce conversations means each person talking about their needs, what they are really thinking and feeling and wrestling together with these things through conversations.
What is the relationship? When we look at the concept of fierce conversations, we see that the conversations we have are the relationship. When we have issues we cannot or do not discuss, we work at all costs to preserve the peace to preserve the relationships (ie: become peacekeepers, not peacemakers!!) When we avoid the very conversations we have to have, our relationships slowly deteriorate until they die. This type of relationship is the way of the world, and one God is calling us to break free of. Instead, He has a new way for us to communicate; that is to communicate using fierce conversations.
So what is a "fierce conversation?" A fierce conversation is one that is robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, and untamed. (Roget's Thesaurus) To put it simply, when we have a fierce conversation we come out from behind ourselves in the conversation and make it real. Sadly, unreal conversations are expensive. However, real conversations bring a risk that we will be known, seen and changed through the conversation. God is calling us to do conversations differently. He is calling us to have real conversations that bring personal freedom, vitality and effectiveness. As we learn to have fierce conversations with ourselves first, we can then start having them with the people God has placed around us.
God is calling us to be authentic, people of integrity, honest with our emotions so we will be able to hold true to the vision God has given us and to take people on the journey where they both understand and then share this vision God has given us.
When we become people who live "fierce" lives in God, we then embrace moral courage. We are able to request things of others and take action. Living fierce lives is an attitude, a way of leading others and when understood and embraced this fierce living becomes a way of life. Pray that God will give you the courage to start on this journey. Read the seven principles that Susan outlines and ask God how He can take you on this journey of developing courage and skills that will allow you to bear the rewards of being able to live fiercely through each conversation you have with others. This is just a brief summary. If this is something that God is calling you to explore, purchase the book and read what Susan reveals about this topic. If you do it will change your life.
Principle 1: Master the courage to interrogate reality.
As we live such busy lives, we see that every time we meet others, things have changed. In our busyness, we do not share with others and even mask these changes within ourselves. As we live and work with others, we forget that each person comes to the relationship with different ideas and perspectives. These ideas and perspectives can actually enrich our lives and give us a clearer picture of reality. Fierce conversations involve people telling us what they are thinking and the truth, even when it is difficult to hear. We need to empty ourselves of pride of thinking we know everything and be open to change our thinking in the light of new and more accurate information.
As we look at the failing of relationships and companies we find that they often fail because people do not really say what they are thinking. We need to explore our goals when we have conversations with people. Are we trying just to be polite to maintain friendships? Do we talk around issues and not really discuss what is important? Can we explore the costs of not identifying and tackling the real issues?
There is a way of dealing with issues that desn't include ultimatums and threatening others. We learn to interrogate everyone's reality so we can get a clear picture of what everyone sees and with this information are able to move together in a greater understanding of the truth of what is happening. It takes great skill to be able to share your perspective and then invite others to share theirs without condemnation or criticism. It takes emotional maturity to allow others to challenge your strongly held opinions and not defend your point of view at all costs. To interrogate reality you, therefore, need to:-
Make a proposal
Check for understanding
Check for agreement.
If we move forward with an idea because it is the only one we have, we are moving forward dangerously. Also, people have a chance to buy into an idea when they have had their perspective sought out and it has been valued, even if another path is decided. Through this process, people genuinely understand why a decision has been made.
A way of encouraging others to speak out is to say "You can count on me to tell you what I think and feel and how I've arrived at my perception. I invite you to do the same, especially if you disagree with my view. Our differing perspectives are invaluable. After all, our goal is to make the best possible decision for the company, not to be right about our individual points of view.".
Our relationship will be successful when we can understand each other, be truthful and stay current. Each time we discuss reality accurately without laying blame, we create an atmosphere that others are comfortable and learn to enjoy.
A model for interrogating reality and mining for increased clarity, improved understanding and creating an environment for change is called a "Mineral Rights" conversation. It is a natural exploration that allows you to:-
Tackle tough challenges
Through these conversations, people can be mobilised to understand, make tough decisions and take strong and purposeful action.
Principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.
In our society, our focus in life has been for people to like us and speak highly of us. We have learnt to develop a need for people to like us and so we grow and change according to what other people think, or even what we think they think. God is calling us to be authentically who He has made us to be and to show up as "US"!! As we know and have our foundations on who God says we are, we are then free in our conversations to express our opinions, ideas and feelings and not have them diluted or polluted by our image. (Read my blog on Identity) Only when we are firmly rooted in our God-given identity can we show up in a conversation and authentically engage with others.
As we engage in fierce conversations, we need to be in a position where our values are set, but continue to change our ideas on reality in the light of new information that we receive through others. The rewards of coming out from yourself are:-
You will abandon the confusion and safety for clarity
You will become increasingly disillusioned by the old way of relating and develop healthier and more effective qualities and behaviours.
Your desire to be in control will be balanced with the need to surrender.
Relationships will be developed that are rewarding, productive and life-giving
Principle 3: Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.
Before we can go anywhere in a relationship, we need to understand the core needs of every human being. We need to be known and loved. Fierce conversations have this need at its core. We aim to know people and their feelings and ideas and this is done through genuinely loving them and accepting what they say without criticism or trying to push our ideas above theirs. As we grow in the ability to authentically connect with others, we move from just "how are you?" to really asking and really listening to them in a way that shows them we are "fully" with them and desire to be nowhere else. Peter Scazzaro calls this Incarnational Listening. We fully leave our world and enter theirs. We then can ask deep questions, clarify our understandings and more fully get to know the other person.
When talking to others, the fierce conversation that can have the greatest impact is one that has us telling someone else how important they are and how much we love and value that person. We come to a conversation with soft eyes and ears. This means we are genuinely interested in what they are saying and ask key questions to clarify our understandings. We look into their eyes and are fully present. A fierce conversation also involves not only listening but when things are raised being prepared to do something about it.
As we are learning to be fully present, we need to be able to give freedom for the other person to say what they need to without cutting them off or putting on our views. We invite people to discuss what is needed and the most important thing to them at the time. They need to know that if they are anxious about raising a topic then it is important that it is raised. Through this conversation, reality will be interrogated and there will be learning by both parties. Through these conversations, people will be given what they need to tackle the tough challenges and the end result is the relationship will be enriched.
When having these conversations there are eight common mistakes made during one to one fierce conversations:-
You do most of the talking
You take the problem away from the other person.
You do not enquire about how they feel.
Your message that is delivered is unclear.
The meeting is cancelled - this tells them they are not important.
You allow interruptions such as phone calls.
You run out of time.
You assume just because you are talking one on one that the conversations are effective.
When working with people, they need to know the decisions they make and how they are to make them. Susan Scott proposes a decision tree, that shows how each decision could be approached. It is essential that your employees are not paid to do what you tell them, but to learn to listen, grow and be released to make decisions that are in line with the direction the company has decided together.
Principle 4: Tackle your toughest challenge today.
Why do people suffer burnout? One reason is that we are trying to solve a problem in the same way with the same result ... failure. If we can deal with our toughest issue and get to the other side where it is solved, then we will have relief, success, health, freedom, relief from stress and progress. We need to gain courage and skills that will enable us to identify, confront and resolve the issues in front of us so we can get to the benefits that come when they are solved.
To present the issue we need to :
State what the issue is. Name the problem.
Explain why it is significant.
Outline the ideal outcome.
Present relevant background information.
State what we have done up to this point.
Be able to state what help we need from others.
In many companies or relationships, there are many issues that are closed topics due to unspoken rules. We believe that if they are not raised and dealt with then both parties will benefit. The reality is that the opposite is true. Other times we do not say things because we believe the consequences of saying something is not worth it. The backlash will be too painful or difficult. We must realise that confronting someone with the issue in love often brings positive results. Talking about them behind their back only fuels the problem. It does not solve anything.
When we understand the idea of a fierce conversation we do all conversations differently. We learn to stand side by side with the other person(s) and look at the issue together. It is pursuing the truth together as each person adds or contributes to adding their piece of understanding so the big picture is revealed. Having an understanding of an issue from multiple perspectives allows us to work together in a new way of finding solutions to problems and to walk in deeper and enriched relationships.
There are five common errors when confronting behaviour:-
Asking how someone is going, but really having your own hidden agenda.
Using an Oreo Cookie approach. Sandwiching the issue between two positive comments.
Using too many pillows to avoid inflicting pain. Often the pain is needed so change can happen.
Confronting the issue with heavy artillery.
When you need to confront someone with an issue, it needs to be done quickly and intentionally. Start off with an opening statement that is clear, communicates the issue and what you want to happen. It needs to contain:-
The issue needs to be named.
An example needs to be given that illustrates the behaviour or situation you want to change.
A describing of your emotions about this issue.
A clarification of what is at stake.
How you have contributed to this problem.
How you wish to resolve the issue.
An invitation to your partner to respond.
Inquire into the views of your partner.
Discuss together what has been learnt and where we are now.
By dealing with difficult and important issues well, you will become current with the important people in your life. Instead of crying and being angry over the same thing, the issues will be dealt with.
Principle 5: Obey your instincts.
Inside each of us is a sense when a storm is brewing even when fact-finding and research picks up nothing. We have to not only trust our instincts, intuition and the Holy Spirit but obey them. We need to learn to hear the still, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit and become confident in acting upon these words even when in our head it does not make sense.
In a fierce conversation, we neither struggle to be approved of nor try to persuade others. Instead, we discuss our ideas, feelings and perceptions. Sometimes, we actually learn what we think when we verbalise what we are thinking to another person. Our goal is to learn to explore all the information through conversations with others and then hear what is being said when we have times of silent reflection on what we have heard. When we learn to both hear and act on our "inner" voice (The Holy Spirit) we become more and more tuned in with what the Spirit is saying.
One thing we need to remember is that we can get things wrong. If this is the case, then instead of presenting my ideas as the truth, we present them as to how we see things at this point in time. Our goal is to finish each conversation with each person having a clear understanding of what has been communicated. As part of a fierce conversation, we present our ideas as a hypothesis that is being explored and tested through interaction with others. It is essential that we do not go into a fierce conversation with the goal of being in control, but we are open to whatever comes up and are prepared for any direction it takes. In the end, we can believe what we choose but are accountable for the choices that are made.
Principle 6: Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
When we leave someone after a fierce conversation the other person has feelings from what they have experienced. This is called an emotional wake. This is the aftermath, afterglow or resulting feelings. Often the person does not remember what you have said, but just how they feel about the conversation.
When we are a leader, there is a speech that you need to be prepared to give for the people who are confused. It says:-
Where we are going
Why we are going there
Who is going with us.
How we are going to get there.
We need to speak in a way that they remember when we have exited the conversation so it needs to be very clear. It is essential that we can show appreciation and praise that is unfiltered and unqualified. Be specific and back it by a story or example showing why you have said what you have said.
As we learn to have fierce conversations, we learn to convey information without the load. (emotional baggage) Sometimes we want to convey a message efficiently, but by doing this the results will not be as positive. This could be a brief email for example. Even speaking using sugar coating cannot disguise the fact that your message contains a load. This will cause people to not trust you in the future.
We can cope with the conversations that go well, but what do we do when the other person throws things back at us that hurt and are painful? Susan talks about crucibles that hold metal that is heated up to very high temperatures. Even when the metal is hot it does not break or leak. When our identity is secure and we are aware of what could happen in a conversation, we need to ask God to help us become a dependable crucible that even when it gets extremely hot, we can continue to have the toughest conversation that allows profound change to take place.
When thinking about whether to discuss an issue or not, an important question is "is it worse to not deliver an important message or deliver it with a load attached?" Often when we are angry we bite our tongues and do not tell people what the issue is. We need wisdom, timing and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit on how to communicate.
When we deliver a message without the load, we speak with clarity, conviction, compassion and passion. We are not open game, but have certain rights:-
We have the right to have our core needs met in a relationship or not have them violated.
We have the right to ask dumb questions
We have the right not to be a victim
We have the right to confront issues that are troubling us.
We have the right to disagree
We have the right to say yes and no.
One major principle in a fierce conversation is that you always complete the conversation where possible. Some conversations are dicey but need to happen. Having a reverse gear and being able to say sorry and you were wrong can be an important part of a conversation.
Principle 7: Let silence do the heavy lifting.
What more can I say? More to come soon!