A friend suggested reading Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High and I found the book very useful. It offers strategies to help with those difficult conversations that we all need to do now and then, which are ones we need to do, but which we know will be difficult. I also found it similar to the advice that’s found in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, which despite the title, is more than a parenting book. Together the two books cover many useful strategies.
My goal was to set up a workshop so that people could ‘work the materials’ and leave with some useful skills to start them on their way. While I wanted to use this with my computing students so that they could deal with team members better, I also knew that I’d have good audience at Play4Agile 2015, so tried my prototype workshop there.
The workshop went ok. People liked the idea, and offered very useful feedback. This is beauty of unconferences: you can present your ideas, and know that you’ll get feedback you can use.
So, after modifying the materials, and the approach of the workshop, I tried it again today with students. I created a deck of cards with the ‘rules’ and ‘tools’ from Crucial Conversations and had a handout for them to take away too.
I started with letting each table look over a deck of five cards, and discuss them in general for a bit. This meant they could talk in safety of their group. Then after five mintutes or so, I opened it up to the group for people to say which cards resonated with them the most, or other comments about the cards.
This was followed by trios of students with one using a card to guide their discussion with someone in a difficult scenario, while the third person observed the situation. After 5 minutes they can stop and discuss how it went with the observer, offering their view too. We did this with four chosen scenarios and it all went well. I will definately try this again, and will also see about getting some better designed cards done too.
The card templates can be printed and glued to playing cards or similar, and the handout offers the background and scenarios you can work through too. If you use them, then please let me know how they work for you.