Crucial Conversations | Book Review

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler’s pathfinder Crucial Conversations is a necessary part of any professional or leader bookshelf. This review covers the second edition. Crucial Conversations is not just a book, it is a powerful tool for affecting significant personal and organizational growth.

Recommended Start

First read the Table of Contents, both edition Forewords, Preface, then the Afterward (page 223) near the end of the book. Since Crucial Conversations is survey and activity based, it will aid reader effectiveness identifying specific, individual improvement areas, with subsequent corresponding book chapters. Then read chapters one through four.

Setting Up

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” | George Bernard Shaw

Sound familiar? This is the same quote and conclusion used in Academy Leadership Program introductions. Chapters one through four (pages 1 – 72) set up the definition (opposing opinions, strong emotions and high stakes) of and how to conduct a crucial conversation. On pages 64-67, we are asked 33 questions how we typically respond during crucial conversations. This survey may be completed in the book, or on-line here.

The Survey

The on-line survey (recommended) produces a handy score sheet for Style Under Stress Assessment and seven Crucial Conversation Scores. The Style Under Stress Assessment yields two scores ranging from zero to six (a lower score is better) summarizing tendencies toward silence and violence. Crucial Conversations scores range from zero to three, the higher the score the better. Each Crucial Conversation Score corresponds to one of chapters three through nine.


Scores from the two tests may be captured visually with the following:

Style Under Stress Assessment

Style Under Stress Assessment


For example, my score of 4 (tendency toward violence) is consistent with my triple red E2L and is an area for continuous improvement.

For example, my Start with Heart score is 0, and Chapter Three is a chapter meant to help me with that particular area.

Follow Through

Chapter eleven guides us with a powerful coaching table on pages 214-216 and chapter ten (recommend one read these chapters in reverse order) has many example tough Crucial Conversations most of us tend to avoid.

In summary, this book is a masterwork, which can change lives and organizations.

JE | August 2014