This book is honestly about a 3.5 for me. I bumped it up to 4 because I really like the message in the book: being patient with people and exploring alternative stories and solutions is a much more effective approach to conflict resolution!
It’s just that it contains a lot of the same basis as many of the books I’ve read on the topic–crucial conversation or thanks for the feedback, to name a few–and in this case it is long on benefits of “holding the calm” and short on the crux, which is how not to get emotionally riled up or attached when things are the most important. They inevitably tell stories that have the benefit of the hindsight and can gloss over situations that that feel emotional or impossible in the moment, which is when people get frustrated and dig into their heels. Of all the books in this genre crucial conversations is still my favorite (and share similar frustrations).
I think some of this reflects the author’s perspective, who has worked professionally as a mediator for decades. In my experience it is often easier to be open minded when we are not in the center of it and the stakes feel less intense. The challenge I have personally is when it strikes me at a vulnerable point and the tempers flare and blood rushes up into the brain and all the calm goes out of the window.
Part of it stems probably comes from the fact that the practice of being able to step away from emotions is hard. Many of the techniques I’m aware of comes from the meditation community. Creating space, taking a time out to let things cool down, meditating and reflection, are tips that are easy to recount and difficult to put into practice. To borrow an overused adage: it takes a lot of practice to stop the bull inside a china shop from smashing everything to the ground.
One last criticism on this genre of books. They often read as if they are trying to sell workshops (and they probably are!). The phrase “hold the calm” gets used so often and in some many different circumstances that I’m often left wondering if it can be diluted to mean “take a measured and effective approach”, or if it is a technique to imprint the phrase so that when I inevitably come across conference promotion materials I would be able to immediately recall and flash up a favorable impression. Or both.
All things considered, I do like the message in the book. This is something I aspire to, and something I want to work on in myself for the coming year. It’s easy to get hot flashes and act to satisfy egoistical instincts. What is much more difficult is take a step back, consider our own and others positions, and take a measured approach to solve for the things that we care about and can benefit from.