The Chocolate Conversation: A book review by Bob Morris

Chocolate ConversationThe Chocolate Conversation: Lead Bittersweet Change, Transform Your Business
Rose Fass
Bibliomotion (2013)

Unless and until you communicate clearly and honestly with yourself, you probably won’t be able to do so with others.

As I began to read this book, I was reminded of one of the key insights in Ernest Becker’s book, Denial of Death. He acknowledges that no one can deny physical death but there is another form of death that can: that which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others’ expectations of us. Rose Fass may have had this in mind when formulating her concept of “the chocolate conversation.” It has three main ingredients:

WORLDVIEWs: “A series of images, assumptions, and beliefs that we hold about ourselves, others, and the world based on our experiences” as well as what we make of those experiences, right or wrong, for better or worse.

STANDARDs
: The “rules, codes, and guidelines that direct our actions in different situations. Like our worldview, our standards are developed through our interactions with others over our lifetime. Although we cannot always control what happens to us, our standards will probably determine how we respond to what happens to us.

CONCERNs: These “arise from information filtered through our worldviews and our standards. Our standards become our expectations.” When expectations are not met, we feel and express our disappointment. The more unrealistic our expectations may be, the greater the disappointment we feel.

A chocolate conversation — one that lacks candor, clarity, focus, and relevance — can occur when those involved are unclear about worldview, fail to communicate standards, and/or conceal or ignore concerns or, worse yet, are unaware of them. What Fass explains so well is how to avoid or improve such a conversation. It could involve two people or two dozen people. One phrase that comes to my mind is “the fog of communication” that conceals meaning and evades understanding.

Although most of the real-world examples that Fass includes are in the business world, the core principles of the mindset and methodology she endorses are relevant to just about any situation in which two or more people interact. Also, it is important to keep in mind that non-verbal communication (i.e. body language and tone of voice) has far greater impact than does what is said during a face-to-face interaction.

These are among the dozens of business subjects of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Fass’s coverage.

o IBM Got the Brass Ring and Xerox Didn’t (Pages 13-20)
o Successful Mergers [Like Successful Marriages] Merge Standards (23-28)
o The Great American Chocolate Conversation (37-40)
o The Four Considerations of Business (41-43)
o Struggling with Relevance (44-50)
o Leadership Happens in the Conversation (59-63)
o How to Know You’re Having a Chocolate Conversation (71-73)
o What You Say and How You Say It Matters (79-83)
o The Conversation on the Inside Out to Mirror the Conversation on the Outside (83-88)
o Reframing the Conversation (93-95)
o If You Don’t Go There, Your Customers Will (105-112)
o Clear the Clutter (114-118)
o The Importance of Listening (120-122)
o A Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence (145-156)
o Leading Change and Transforming Your Business (162-167)
o Sketchnotes (173-191)

To sum up, chocolate conversations need not occur if a few basic skills are mastered and then applied effectively. Everything begins with determining one’s own worldviews, standards, and concerns…whatever they are. It is also important to become a careful listener who can “translate” what others say to determine (a) their intended meaning which reveals (b) their worldviews, standards, and concerns.

How to accomplish all this? Read Rose Fass’s book with appropriate care and then re-read it. Note in particular what she helps you to understand about your worldviews, standards, and concerns that you did not know before. Stop having chocolate conversations with yourself. Perhaps the best advice comes from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

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