This book review follows on from Part One, in which I introduce both Life Changing Conversations, and also the author Sarah Rozenthuler who was a good friend of mine while we studied Psychology together at Nottingham University. In this review review I would like to move on to the meat of the book, in which Sarah explores the seven different strategies for having a “big conversation” – one that Sarah defines as “happening only when we express what we are really experiencing”.
The seven strategies are
- Calling up you courage
- Creating a container
- Intending the message you send
- Connecting with respect
- Speaking your truth
- Surrendering your story
- Finding closure
I don’t plan to examine each of these strategies in detail in this review. What I would like to do is look at one in particular, to help bring out the way in which each is structured, explored and utlises specific tools and exercises to help readers really accomplish the tasks each strategy is designed to help them achieve.
In the strategy for speaking the truth, we follow the case study of Tim who is a graphic designer in his thirties, with a young family but who feels stuck in his career and role of director at the small graphic design agency where he works. Tim needs to have a Big Conversation with the owner of the agency, Alison, but how to do this when facing conflicting pressures, especially in difficult economic times when it is not so simply just to up and move jobs which are now becoming harder to come by in many industry sectors?
As Sarah says, failing to speak our truth can be a major source of stress in our lives, and if we bottle things up, it can impact on us physically:
When we wear a mask rather than express ourselves authentically, we are trapped in acting out a role. Instead of being who we really are, we become a counterfeit version of ourselves. This makes us drained, down and desperate.
Life Changing Conversations is full of small but well-thought-out checklists for each strategy, and in this case there are four different ones to help us (and Tim) discover our personal truth. I probably am focusing on this chapter since it deals with one of the core issues we face in our personal lives and at work, and this is the situation where we often confuse our opinions with objective truths. And so Sarah provides us with a truth inventory to help us explore the differences, and also a Wheel exercise to help us discover how we are truly feeling.
One of the core strengths of Life Changing Conversations is that in addition to the checklists etc in each chapter, Part Three of the book is a compendium of eighteen different in-depth exercises, each one of which is highlighted in the main text of the book with a real example. This is what makes the book so immensely practical, not just for those who may be reading the book in roder to prepare for a big conversation, but also those of us who may also be in positions where we can help others to have big conversations as well.
In our own book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter we work with the four ways of knowing – thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. I therefore particularly enjoyed the passages in chapter seven which highlight the differences between emotions and feelings. As Sarah points out “whereas negative emotions can disrupt a dialogue, feelings can catalyse a conversation”. Whereas emotions can often hold us back, feelings can take us “deeper into ourselves” and whereas emotions are typically our reactions to things we may not understand, “feelings by contrast are a form of higher understanding”.
As Sarah concludes, “a conversation is a humble tool that’s available to every single one of us. Yet it can truly be a portal through which we call forth a magnificent reality”. It still does though seem that many of us can at times really struggle to have conversations which lead to more meaningful and fulfilled lives, and Life Changing Conversations is a wonderful book full of practical advice and structured exercises to help us make those shifts we both feel we need and also truly deserve.