1. What is the “accountability shuffle”? Why is it ineffective?2. What does it mean to say, “the conversation is the relationship”?3. Explain Scott’s notion of “fierce” conversation.4. According to Scott, what does it take to make a conversation “real”?5. Scott argues that similar successes and problems occur in conversations at work and conversations at home. Do you agree? If you do, what are some implications of this fact for your communicating?6. What does Scott say about the risks of being known, being seen, and being changed? How do you respond to what she says?7. How can the job of “mak[ing] each conversation as real as possible” actually be meaningful and productive?
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Chapter 2 Communication and Interpersonal Commnnication
sociocultural reality, and in the sense that, as it transpires, constraints on and affordances to people’s behavior momentarily emerge. In this view, communication is not a neutral vehicle by which an external reality is communicated about,
and by which factors of psychology, social structure, cultural norms, and the like
are transmitted or are influentiaL The communication process: (a) exerts a role
in the personal identities and self-concepts experienced by persons; (b) shapes
the range of permissible and impermissible relationships between persons, and
so produces a social structure; and (c) represents the process through which
cultural values, beliefs, goals, and the like are formulated and lived.
Thus, to study the consequentiality of communication is to envision a world
composed of a continuous process of meaning production, rather than conditions antecedent and subsequent to this production. To study the consequen. tiality of commwucation is to take seriously-for purposes of description and
analysis-a world sustained by persons behaving, engaged in the negotiation
and renegotiation of messages, not a world of a priori (or a posteriori) cognitive
states, cultural rules, social roles, or the like.
2. Explain what it means to say that the process of communication often has
more impact than the content.
1. When Sigman says communication “matters,” what does
1. What is the relationship between tlus short reading and my essay that begins
2. Assume that you are a communication major and that you’ve decided to
focus your undergraduate studies on communication. At a family gathering,
an aunt or uncle asks you what you’re studying and why. Using the readings
in thls chapter, respond to your aunt or uncle.
~ san Scott is an executive educator who has helped clients around the world transform
me cultures of their organizations. In this excerpt from her best-selling book, she explains
‘tow, as I noted earlier in the chapter, conversations are the most important communication
events people experience. As she puts it, “our work, our relationships, and, in fact, our very
:i es succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”
Part 1 Foundations of Interpersonal Communication
Chapter 2 Communk
Although Scott’s primary audience is businesspeople rather than college students, her
main points apply to everyone. Regardless of your station in life, when you face an important challenge, your first step should be to resist what she calls the “accountability shuffle”
of blaming others, and your second should be to “identify the conversations out there with
your name on them and resolve to have them with all the courage, grace, and vulnerability
they require.” If life is good, you can also realize that you got here “gradually, then suddenly,
one successful conversation at a time.” And her advice applies as much to experiences at
‘home as it does to experiences at work.
Scott reinforces what other authors in this chapter have also said: Relationships exist in
the conversations that make them up. Whether you’re thinking about a dating relationship, a
marriage relationship, a work relationship, or a family relationship, “the conversation is the
relationship.” Relationship problems begin in specific conversations, negative spirals can be
tracked through conversations, and improvement can occur when conversations change.
By “fierce conversation,” Scott explains that she means intense, strong, powerful,
passionate, eager, and robust conversation. “Fierce” does not mean angry or hostile; it
emphasizes the importance of being genuinely present and authentic in as many as possible
of the conversations you experience. Scott urges her readers to embrace the possibility that
fierce conversations are opportunities to be known, seen, and changed.
Near the end of this reading, Scott tells her story of discovering the importance of conversation while working with business leaders on issues that undercut their effectiveness.
As she explains, her brief and superficial explanation of what she did for a living was “I
ran think tanks for corporate leaders and worked with them one-to-one.” But “what I really
did was extend an intimate invitation to my clients, that of conversation.” And most clients
experienced significant improvement in their effectiveness and their job satisfaction.
This reading ends with a challenge for you to begin working to make more of your
conversations genuinely authentic or “fierce.” The rest of Scott’s 290-page book effectively
details how to do this. But as a contribution to the second chapter of this book, I hope her
words emphasize how crucially important it is for you to pay attention to the communication events that most define your reality and determine your success and happiness:
Whether you i
discouraging, so lE
munications.” I’d 1
with the person w
conversations in bE
… Qnce Y013.J
skills an<;l, more ii Win be no.going b< I '! ver ten thousand hours of one-to-one conversations with industry leaders, as.. well as workshops with men and women from all wa.lks of life confronting issues of relationship and life direction, have convinced" me that our work, our relationships, and, in fact, our very lives succeed or fail gradually. then suddenly. one conz?eJ:BRtilm- O a!..!!JjJtle. Equally provocative has been my realization that while no single conver_§atiqn is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation can . ... "Introduction: The Idea Fierce" from Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, copyright © 2002 by Fierce Conversations, Inc. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. WOrti:r.:a:r-.---- When Here Is Tn Be patient with ym at a time. Allow th one conversation at Sometimes lum economies, corpon individual and coll that life has grown t muddle through as Perhaps you re< the one that counh valued employee. C loyalty of your tean of your family. Perhaps your e< ments not cooperal strategic plans that excuses why things To experience '" challenges, put you: it at some~me who That's called the ace Blame isn't the home. Once you reJ point and place in ti !,!Q!1 that set things you find yourself to failed conversation a Ask yourself, "1 a role, a relationshiJ lose my way?" So many times never came to terms Chapter 2 Communication and Interpersonal Communication 55 Whether you intend to maintain positive results in your life or turn things around, considering all of the conversations you need to have could feel a bit discouraging, so let's take the curse off the somewhat daunting field of "communications." I'd like you to simply take it one conversation at a time, beginning with the person who next stands in front of you. Perhaps there are very few conversations in between you and what you desire . . . . Qnce you get the hang of jt. once you master the courage and the skills and, more important, enjoy the benefit · ce conversations there will be no going ac . It cou c ange the world. It will certainly change your world. When Here Is Troubling Be patient with yourself. You got here--wherever "here" is-one conversation at a time. Allow the changes needed at horne or at work to reveal themselves one conversation at a time. Sometimes here just happens. Following the high-tech carnage, crashing economies, corporate layoffs, and terrorist attacks of 2001, which altered our individual and collective realities in a heartbeat, it would be easy to conclude that life has grown too unpredictable, that there's nothing to do but hang on and muddle through as best you can. Perhaps you received a major wake-up call. You lost your biggest customerthe one that counted for 40 percent of your net profit. Or you lost your most valued employee. Or you lost your job, and it wasn' t due to a layoff. You lost the loyalty of your team. You lost your eighteen-year marriage, or the cohesiveness , of your family. Perhaps your company is experiencing turnover, turf wars, rumors, depar~ ments not cooperating with one another, long overdue reports and projects, strategic plans that still aren't off the ground, and lots of very good reasons and excuses why things can't be any different or better. To experience what happens for many individuals and organizations facing challenges, put your right arm out and point your finger, then visualize pointing it at someone who is the bane of your professional or personal life right now. That's called the accountabilittt shuffle.. He did it, she did it, they did it to me. Blame isn't the answer, nor is cocooning in the perceived safety of your home. Once you reflect on the path that led you to a disappointing or difficult point and place in time, you may remember, often in vivid detail, the £Onversa!iQ!l that set things in motion, ensuring that you would end up exactly where you find yourself today. It is very likely that you arrived at this destination one failed conversation at a time. Ask yourself, "How did I get here? How is it that I find myself in a compan)'r a role, a relationship, or a life from which I've absented my spirit? How did I lose my way?" So many times I've heard people say, "We never addressed the real issue, never came to terms with reality." Or, "We never stated ?ur needs·. We never told ~ ~ ""r. 56 Part 1 Foundations of Interpersonal Communication each other what we were really thinking and feeling. In the end, there were so many things we needed to talk about, the wheels came off the cart." In February 2002, Robert Kaiser and David Ottaway wrote an article for the Washington Post about the fragility of U.S.-Saudi ties. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, is quoted as saying, "Have we [the United States and Saudi Arabia] understood each other particularly well? ... Probably not. And I think, in a sense, we probably avoid talking about the things that are the real problems between us because it's a very polite relationship. We don't get all that much below the surface." Take your finger and touch your nose. This is where the resolution begins. ThisJs the accountable po~on. If you want to make progress toward a better "here" in your profess~or pe'i-sonallife, identify the conversations out there with your name on them and resolve to have them with all the courage, grace; _and vul11grability they require. When Here Is Wonderful ~ And on the positive side, you finally landed that huge customer, the one your competition would kill for. Or you successfully recruited a valuable new employee. Or you discovered that your team is committed to you at the deepest level. Or you just received a promotion. Or you enjoy a deeply fulfilling relationship. You are clear and passionate about your life. You got to this good place in your life, this satisfying career path, this terrific relationship, gradually, then suddenly, one successful conversation at a time. Perhaps one marvelously fierce conversation at a time. And now you are determined to ensure the quality of your ongoing conversations with the people central to your success and happiness. If you want better results at home or at work, you've come to the right place. After reading this, gathering your courage, and working with the tools we'll explore together, you will return to your colleagues at work, to your partner at home, and, most important, to your self, prepared to engage in ongoing, groundbreaking conversations that will profoundly transform your life. While it was tempting to give in to suggestions that I write two booksFierce Conversations in the Workplace and Fierce Conversations at Home-brea~ this material into two books would have been a mistake. Perhaps you've bough into the premise that we respond differently depending on whom we are with, that our work and home personas are really quite different. Perhaps you pay fierce attention to conversations at work but slip into a conversational coma at home, convinced there's nothing new, interesting, or energizing to discuss, preferring the company of the remote control. Perhaps you leave your warmth, playfulness, and authenticity at home and prop up an automaton at your desk at work, afraid to let your authentic self show up lest you be judged as poor fodder for the corporate feast. Perhaps you've told yourself that conversations at work are unavoidably and substantially different from conversations at home. That that's just the way it has to be. This is not true. - Chapter 2 Communication and Interpersonal Communication ~1- . ~ -......~ ; '::-""' ~¥,;_ 57 ...... ti Each of us must discard the notion that we respond differently depending ( on whom we're with and that our work and home conversations are really quite l.9J£ferent. When you squeeze an orange, what comes out of it? Orange juice. Why? Because that's what's inside it. The orange doesn't care whether it's on a boardroom table or beside the kitchen sink. It doesn't leak orange juice at home and tomato juice at work. When we get squeezed-when things aren 't going well for us-what comes out of us? Whatever's inside us. To pretend that what's going on in our personal lives can be boxed, taped shut, and left in the garage while we are at work is hogwash. It seeps in everywhere. Who we are is who we are, all over the place. So if your conversations at work are yielding disappointing results, I'd be vvilling to bet you're getting similar results at home. The principles and skills needed to engage in conversations that produce mind-blowing, world-class results in the workplace are exactly the same principles and skills that produce mind-blowing, world-class results at home. The Conversation Is the Relationship Going hand in hand with the discovery that our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time is a second insight, courtesy of poet and author David Whyte. During a keynote speech at TEC International's annual conference several years ago, David suggested that in the typical marriage, the young man, newly married, is often frustrated that this person with whom he intends to enjoy the rest of his life seemingly needs to talk, yet again, about the same thing they talked about last weekend. And it often has something to do with their relationship. He wonders, Why are we talking about this again? I thought we settled this. Couldn't we just have one huge conversation about our relationship and then coast for a year or two? Apparently not, because here she is again. Eventually, if he is paying attention, it occurs to him, Whyte suggests, that "this ongoing, robust conversation he has been having with his wife is not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship." ..,. The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the. relationship become smaller, until one day we overhear ourselves in midsentence, making ourselves smaller in every encounter, behaving as if we are just the space around our shoes, engaged in yet another three-minute conversation so empty of meaning it crackles. Incremental degradation-if we compromise at work or at home; if we lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about, and, most important, what degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations-it's a slow and deadly slide. One company president has been known to stop candid input in its tracks with the pronouncement "Howard, I do not consider that a career-enhancing response." 58 Part 1 Foundations of Interpersonal Communication Fortunately, few leaders exhibit such exaggerated violations of the general rules of communication. However, many work teams as well as couples have a list of undiscussables, issues they avoid broaching at all costs in order to pre, serve a modicum of peace, to preserve the relationship. In realitY! the relation,.~~ spip steadil deteriorates for lack of the very conversations they so carefully rJ ~ avoid. It's difficult to raise the level i the slide has laste over a per10 o years, "j ~ and that's what keeps many of us stuck. ~0 In our significant relationships, in the workplace, and in our conversations with ourselves, we'd like to tell the truth. We'd like to be able to successfully tackle the topic that's keeping us stuck or apart, but the task is too hard, we don't know how to avoid the all-too-familiar outcome of talks gone south, and besides, we've learned to live with it. Why wreck another meeting with our colleagues, another weekend with our life partner, trying to resolve the tough issues or answer the big questions? We're tired and we just want peace in the land. The problem is, whether you are running an organization or your life, you are required to be responsive to your world. And that response often requires change. We effect chan_g~by engaging in robust conversations with ourselves and others. Each conversation we have with our coworkers, customers, significant others, and children either enhances those relationships, flatlines them, or takes them down. Given this, what words and what level of attention do you wish to bring to your conversations with the people most important to you? Throughout the book we will explore principles and practices that will help you engage in conversations that enrich relationships, no matter how sensitive or challenging the topic. What Is a "Fierce" Conversation? But a "fierce" conversation? Doesn't "fierce" suggest menacing, cruel, barbarous, threatening? Sounds like raised voices, frowns, blood on the floor, no fun at all. In Roget's Thesaurus, however, the word fierce has the following synonyms: robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed. iMrn its simplest form, a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind Vat~rselves into the conversation and make it real. While many are afraid of "real," it is the unreal conversation that should scare us to death. Whoever said talk is cheap was mistaken. Unreal conversations are incredibly expensive for organizations and for individuals. Every organization wants to feel it's having a real conversation with its employees, its customers, its territory, and with the unknown future that is emerging around it. Each individual wants to have conversations that are somehow building his or her world of meaning. If you are a leader, your job is to accomplish the goals of the organization. How will you do that in today's workplace? In large part, by making every conversation you have as real as possible. Today's employees consider themselves Chapter 2 Communication and Interpersonal Communication 59 owners and investors. They own their time, their energy, and their expertise. They are willing to invest these things in support of the individuals, ideals, and goals in which they believe. Give them something real in which to believe. What I've witnessed over and over is that when the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation has even ended. Being real is not the risk. The real risk is that: I will be known. I will be seen. I will be changed. Think about it. What are the conversations you've been unable or unwilling to have-with your boss, colleague, employee, customer; with your husband, wife, parent, child; or with yourself-that, if you were able to have, might change everything? My Own Journey For thirteen years, I worked with corporate leaders through the auspices of TEC International, an organization dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs. Thousands of CEOs in eighteen countries meet for monthly one-to-one conversations with someone like myself to focus on their businesses and lives-from bud ... Purchase answer to see full attachment
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