Book Review: Vital Conversations by Alec Grimsley

The subtitle of this book is ‘Making The Impossible Conversation Possible’, which must strike a chord with many of us. Grimsley describes the conversations as vital because these are discussions we simply cannot put off any longer, and the sooner we get on with it, the better off we will all be.

Drawing on a range of different approaches (including, but certainly not limited to, NLP, appreciative enquiry, assertiveness techniques, CBT, to name a few), Alec leads the reader to the point where they have meticulously prepared and planned their conversation. Will they go on to have it? I hope so, as this book really does help the reader get good and ready, and is the next best thing to having the author there in person.

Things I like about this book:

  • Case studies – they may or may not be real people, but the breadth of case studies ensures there’s a situation that should look familiar to most readers in amongst those described;
  • Icons to help the reader pick out different elements, such as the aforementioned case studies, ‘key learns’, mini exercises and top tips;
  • Some good ‘self-coaching’ questions to help reflection, planning and preparation;
  • Simple charts mapping out the conversation process;
  • Examples – what the influencing gurus would call ‘borrowed authority’ – from leading figures in the field such as Marshall Rosenberg, Lee Ross and Roger Schwartz;
  • ‘Your story’s headlines’, a great – and potentially hilarious – activity to stretch the tricky situation to over-dramatic, and possibly absurd, proportions.

Things I’m not so keen on:

    Some of the slightly more esoteric stuff, such as three animals that represent characteristics which those navigating tricky conversations might find useful to adopt (to be fair to Grimsley, he prefaces this by saying it may not be to everyone’s taste);

    Some of the language recommended, which whilst carefully selected and assertive, could easily be received as a bit patronising. So well worth taking Alec’s tip of recording yourself a few times before starting your conversation;

    A few typos, which in my humble opinion merit a vital conversation with the typesetter!

If you find you keep putting off difficult conversations and want to find some straightforward steps to map out your journey to a more trusting, transparent and potentially transformative dialogue with someone, this book is a knowledgeable and practical companion.

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