Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott: Book Overview

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What is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott about? Do you want to talk about your feelings without fear of backlash?

In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott argues that everyone should be comfortable making courageous conversations. These types of discussions are ones where you let your true feelings and issues out there, and the results are better relationships and alignment with your goals.

Read below for a brief overview of Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

In Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott argues that to achieve happiness and success in life, you must constantly have courageous conversations—honest and sometimes uncomfortable discussions about your thoughts, feelings, desires, and issues. This is because these aspects are constantly changing, and if left unaddressed, will likely cause you to become misaligned with your goals. Further, failing to have these conversations or doing so ineffectively, risks escalating issues and damaging relationships. Scott provides a model for having courageous conversations that will effectively solve critical issues, enable learning, and improve relationships so you can achieve happiness and success in all aspects of your life.

Susan Scott is a leadership development specialist, executive coach, public speaker, and best-selling author. She’s the founder of Fierce Inc., a global training and consultancy firm that improves leadership skills and organizational culture by building conversational skills and encouraging dialogue. Scott is also the author of Fierce Leadership, a follow-up to Fierce Conversations that discusses the flawed “best practices” of mainstream organizational culture and how to overcome them.

Guideline #1: Uncover and Prepare to Share Your Truths

Scott explains that the first step in having courageous conversations is uncovering your truths—the most important aspects of your life currently. These aspects include your thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns regarding important relationships and circumstances in your life. For example, you might need to discuss the truth of your concern for your best friend’s mental health, or as a business leader, the truth of the decrease in employee satisfaction at work.

Scott emphasizes that this process may be difficult because some truths are uncomfortable, and people often repress rather than consciously think about these things to avoid discomfort. To uncover your deep truths, ask yourself the following questions regarding your self (who you are and who you want to be), your life path (personal relationships, goals, and so on), and your career (work relationships, work goals, and so on): 

  • What’s making me unhappy? 
  • What am I, or others, afraid to talk about? 
  • What changes or circumstances need to be discussed?
  • What do I want, why do I want it, and how will I get it?

The truths that arise in your answers are the most pressing topics you should discuss. Scott notes that as you do this regularly over time, the process will become a natural behavior and you’ll become more aware of your deep truths without having to spend time intentionally analyzing yourself and your life.

Guideline #1.1: Identify Who Needs to Hear Your Truth

Once you uncover the truths you must discuss, Scott explains that you must determine who you need to discuss them with. For each truth you uncovered in the previous step, list the people involved in the situation—this is who you must converse with. Be sure to converse with everyone who’s relevant so you can hear all sides of the issue and create a sustainable and effective solution.

Scott elaborates that you should discuss some truths with yourself only—for example, truths that pertain to you only or don’t require external interventions. 

Guideline #1.2: Prepare The Topic For Discussion

Once you’ve determined who you need to talk to, Scott says you must prepare the topic for discussion—clarify all the important details so you can contextualize and clearly explain the topic to others. She provides a few steps for doing so. If the topic requires a conversation with your inner self rather than others, use these steps to self-evaluate the issue and determine the most effective actions you can take.

Guideline #2: Structure The Discussion

Once you’ve uncovered your truths and determined who you need to discuss them with, Scott explains that you must choose an effective conversational model to structure the discussion. Following a conversational model is crucial because it allows you to respectfully introduce the topic, learn about the issue from all perspectives, and build mutual understanding so you can uncover effective and sustainable solutions. Scott presents two methods for doing so: one for intimate discussions with one or a few people and one for larger meetings (such as in corporate settings). 

Model #1: Conversing In Small Groups

Scott’s first model is intended to be used for intimate conversations with one or a few people and can be used in personal or corporate situations. Its purpose is to find the root of an issue and surface effective and sustainable solutions by uncovering other peoples’ truths—the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that are important to the topic but that participants may be hesitant to acknowledge and discuss. To structure your discussion according to this model, take the following steps:

Model #2: Conversing In Large Groups

Scott’s second model, designed for group meetings in corporate settings, intends to uncover all important details and perspectives of complex issues. This is important because organizations are multifaceted—individuals will have different perspectives on issues based on their location, role, level of authority, and so on. If each of these perspectives isn’t exposed, important details may be overlooked, which could result in poor solutions. 

Guideline #3: Conduct Yourself Properly During the Discussion

Scott explains that your behavior, body language, tone, and communication style are critical to courageous conversations. Regardless of how you structure the conversation, these smaller details largely influence how the other person will respond and whether they’ll be comfortable enough to share their truth with you. Scott discusses three principles to follow that will establish mutual trust and understanding with the other person(s) so you can have an effective courageous conversation.

Principle #1: Give the Other Person Your Full Attention

First, Scott explains that you must give the other person(s) your complete, undivided attention. If the other party senses that you’re distracted or don’t care about what they’re saying, they’ll be reluctant to share their truth. To start things off right, get rid of distractions like technology, and make eye contact to show them you’re listening.

Further, focus on both the content of their statements as well as smaller details like their tone and body language. The things people say—the thoughts, feelings, details, and examples they discuss—show what’s important to them. Their tone and body language, and any changes in these elements that occur during the conversation, can indicate unspoken desires, fears, and emotions.

To pick up on these details, Scott says you must achieve a state of inner peace. In this state, you’re focused on the other person rather than on your own thoughts or feelings. You’re curious to learn what the other person thinks and feels, and why, rather than judging them or formulating your own responses.

Principle #2: Control Your Impact

To ensure you leave a positive impact, Scott says you must be genuine and compassionate. This requires you to say what you mean and avoid unclear, negative, or manipulative forms of communication. For example, regularly remind important people how much they mean to you, and avoid forms of communication like blaming, sarcasm, exaggerations, threats, and so on. This way, people will know exactly how you feel toward them without having to guess or interpret mixed messages.

Further, always have important conversations in person, not by text or phone call. Text and phone conversations lack important nonverbals that indicate to the other person what you really feel and mean. This makes people more likely to misinterpret what you’re saying and how you feel.

Principle #3: Utilize the Power of Silence

Scott urges you to embrace silence to enhance understanding. Integrating breaks of silence into the conversation allows time for you to fully process what the other person is saying, reflect on what truths are being revealed, identify the most important thing to discuss next, and ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to speak so that the conversation isn’t monopolized by one group or person.

To integrate silence into conversations, give your full attention to the speaker while they’re speaking (Principle #1) and take your time to form your response after they’re finished. When someone shares something important and you feel like you need a longer pause to process things, inform the other person that you need a moment to reflect before responding.

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott: Book Overview

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Here's what you'll find in our full Fierce Conversations summary:

  • Why you must have uncomfortable discussions about feelings
  • How to uncover the most critical issues that must be addressed
  • How to ensure you stay aligned with your life goals

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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