Fernando Flores was a minister in Salvador Allende’s government in Chile at the time of the Pinochet coup. In the introduction to Conversations for Action he writes movingly about the difficulties of this time, and the brutalities that followed, and wonders if the course of events in Chile might have been different had he and others in government found a different way of talking with one another that in turn could have produced more effective and coordinated action.
After a period in political imprisonment and his subsequent release, Flores moved to the US and took up the topic of conversations in earnest. This book, a collection of papers written for clients of his consulting firm, is a clearly articulated exploration of topics relevant to the bringing about of powerful coordinated action. It will be of interest to the many of us who have experienced the frustrations and difficulties involved.
Flores’ central argument is that it is through conversation that all human action comes about, and that our common sense about such conversations does not make much sense at all. We need to think again, and more clearly, about the kinds of conversation we have, about our tendency to leave out crucial steps or avoid important topics (often the ones that cause us anxiety), about the role of mood in shaping what’s possible, about the centrality of promises in coordinating action. And we need a new and more accurate understanding of the activity we call listening. If any of this sounds vague, remember that the purpose of this book is resolutely practical – bringing about conversations that can change things for the better.
A book with the potential to shift how you think about the background to all human relationships, and in particular how you think about – and take action in – the conversations that make up the vital human activity we call work.