Brave Talk by Melody Stanford Martin — Book Review

This book, although not written by a Christian, will be of interest to Christians as a useful guide in building relationships in the face of conflict.  Ms. Martin’s father was a Pentecostal minister, but she describes herself as a “rainbow liberal” so she has learned to work hard at creating community despite seemingly insurmountable differences of belief and opinion.

When we don’t deal with conflict, it doesn’t disappear.  It can affect our ability to sleep, learn, make decisions, and cope with daily life.  It can cause us to develop unhealthy habits and self-destructive behavior.  On the other hand, dealing with disagreements well (i.e. brave talk) will make our relationships less fragile and our communities healthier.  Disagreement helps us to hone and better present our own beliefs to one another.

Topics discussed include power, domination, the different types of disagreements, fear, anomie, feelings, assumptions, core values, rhetoric and more.  There is plenty of great advice about how to communicate clearly and be more persuasive. You will find out what type of communicator you are, and get tips for improving and expanding your communication style. Throughout the author emphasized that the relationship is more important than the impasse.  Even when we disagree strongly, we can choose to understand one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and offer respect.  These ideas are clearly need to be cultivated in our society today, and we Christians are the ones who should be doing it!

The epilogue makes the following points about difficult conversations:

  • It’s not all about you
  • It’s hard work
  • You should advocate for the things you believe in with all the articulate, passionate energy you can muster
  • Things will sometimes by awkward or uncomfortable
  • Things may even be painful
  • Humor helps
  • Courage means sharing your heart and understanding the risks of opening up

There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, so the book would make a great read for a book club or discussion group.  There are also a number of helpful appendices containing some helpful tools.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  There were a few things I didn’t agree with (lol) but overall, it was an informative and eye-opening read.  I recommend it.

For more on conflict and communication see:

Who Made me a Judge or Arbitrator Over You?

Selma — Movie Review

Peacemaker or Peacekeeper?



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