by Ben E. Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simon
It would be unfair to review “Conversation Transformation” purely as a book. “Conversation Transformation” is in fact merely one component of a very good blended learning process. For example, readers are encouraged to take an online pre and post-test of their communication skills. In addition to the comprehensive and well-designed learning exercises throughout the book, the reader is also encouraged to visit online for further exercises or to hear dialogue (for example, because this book is about conversations, it’s almost impossible to illustrate voice tone in the written word).
The basic concept behind “Conversation Transformation” is that communication breakdown comes about because of the words used or the way the messages are framed, not because of the nature of the people or the complexity of the issue. What a refreshing change the authors bring to the topic of communication! So many books on the subject unfortunately try to turn the reader into an amateur psychologist. By contrast, the authors of “Conversation Transformation” focus on the real reasons communications break down – the words people use or the way they are expressed.
The good news about this approach is that every one of us can learn how to improve our communication merely by changing what and how we say things. The simple three step learning approach the authors suggest is:
Awareness – Seeing the way out of your rut through realisation, attention and observation.
Action – Getting into your new groove by substituting a new behaviour for an old one.
Practice – Staying in the groove by using behaviours that are rewarding, intensive and incremental.
Although this book could be described as quite dense or intense, it is necessarily so. This may be challenging for the reader with a short attention span. However, if one gets a gist of the topic, it is easy to jump straight to the exercises to get into action. In fact, there are occasions in the book where the authors suggest such a tactic.
In terms of the content, the book covers six problematic communication behaviours, from yes-buts to verbal attacks. I particularly liked the section on yes-buts – it was the first of the six and made such good common sense that it should engage the reader in wanting to learn more, straight away.
If there was one criticism I had of the book (and it’s only a small one), there were no visuals. It’s appreciated that we are talking about conversation, so that may be difficult. One area where a visual would work well is in the funnel analogy for the four types of questions.
Whilst the book can be read and used as a stand-alone guide for improving one’s conversations and overall communication skills, it would probably be more effective to involve as many of the learning experiences offered. My recommendation is to buy the book and do as many of the online activities as suits your needs. “Conversation Transformation” will not only transform your conversations, it will transform your relationships.
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