Difficult Conversations, which I read first, establishes a very high standard in terms of practical application. It uses compelling narrative to demonstrate how to best apply the concepts within the text within a wider variety of situations and settings. This variety in narrative helped clearly demonstrate that difficult conversations are a part of our everyday life. Thus, leading these types of conversations is a critical asset that will reap dividends for a lifetime (side note: In a rush? Just refer to pages 233-234 for the key points relating to preparing for any difficult conversation).
Difficult Conversations is focused on the introspective process of understanding one’s self and utilizing this self-knowledge to engage challenging interactions and promote learning opportunities.
Divide or Conquer provides a way to understand the external construct, or the context and anatomy of relationships, via a process and examination of the web of actions, reactions, and unseen structures within our personal and professional relationships.
Divide or Conquer started strong with an in-depth exploration of the relationship between Apple’s Founder Steve Jobs and its CEO John Sculley. The historical context in combination with the relationship mapping was quite revealing and enticing. From there though…the book was fairly bland. Divide or Conquer feels more like a textbook on relationship cartography than a process.
Though these books are very different in aim and style, in evaluating these texts together it is clear that they are supplemental and synergistic. Conflict exists. In order to manage well the conflict in our lives we must enter into dialogue and discussion in a more informed manner and from a posture of learning rather than blame. To take this a step further, relationships that are very important require commitment, work, and evaluation. All relationships have formal and informal structures that affect how we act, react, and interact. These invisible scripts and relational undertones greatly affect our perspectives and behaviors towards each other in ways that we don’t understand. Through intentional evaluation and mapping of relational interactions we can develop a more clear picture of our self and the other.
In terms of applying what I’ve learned from these books, I have already seen dividends. Difficult Conversations has helped me more clearly understand my personal story, learn to consider other’s perspectives rather than make assumptions, maintain an open mind to multiple solutions, and seek to facilitate an attitude of wisdom/learning.
Additionally, the notion of contribution was incredibly freeing, though still ephemeral, especially as we are surrounded by a polarizing culture that views interpersonal conflict more as a mathematical equation rather than relational in nature, thus contribution is often quickly foregone and assessing fault takes its place. However, using and applying the lens of contribution, we can more readily accept that we are responsible for the issues and conflict we find ourselves in on a daily basis.
On the other hand, a colleague pointed out to me that relationship mapping is not always a partnership. He explained that he used Divide or Conquer to formulate some hypotheses about his relationship with his boss and then informally test how changes in his behavior might change her response. Though this may sound manipulative, its actually quite smart and practical. Not everyone whom you have conflict with will be willing to put time and effort into understanding the relationship. By changing your own approach and behavior, you may gain insight into why the other person acts the way that they do.
We will all face difficult conversations with family, friends, colleagues, bosses, employees, and even strangers. Difficult Conversations and Divide or Conquer provide a framework for understanding relationships. If you’re interested in reading them or seeing what others have to say about them click the below pictures to go to Amazon.