Cover image for Difficult conversations : how to discuss what matters most
Difficult conversations : how to discuss what matters most
Stone, Douglas, 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxi, 250 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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BF637.C45 S78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF637.C45 S78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF637.C45 S78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF637.C45 S78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF637.C45 S78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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What is a difficult conversation? Asking for a raise. Ending a relationship. Saying "no" to your boss or spouse. Confronting disrespectful behavior. Apologizing. Conversations we dread, and often handle clumsily as a result, are part of all our lives: in boardrooms and family rooms, across the negotiation table and the dinner table. Now, Difficult Conversations teaches us how to handle these dialogues with more success and less anxiety. How does it work? Based on fifteen years of research and consultations with thousands of people, Difficult Conversations pinpoints what works. The authors discovered that regardless of context, the same small but crucial errors are what trip us up--and a few key adjustments can make all the difference. * The role of emotions--ours and theirs * The impact of what is said and what is not said * Why admitting our mistakes will put us in a stronger position * The truth behind the myth that women are better at expressing their emotions than men * How to respond productively in the face of personal attacks Who is this for? Filled with examples from everyday life, Difficult Conversations is certain to be an instant and lasting classic for families, neighbors, bosses, employees, customers, tenants, landlords, psychologists, teachers, and more. Who are the authors? Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen teach at Harvard Law School and at the Harvard Negotiation Project. They have consulted to countless businesspeople, governments, organizations, and communities including all parties to the negotiations on constitutional transition in South Africa; school teachers in Medellin, Colombia; and community leaders and the police department in Springfield, Massachusetts. They lecture throughout the world and have written on negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication. Bruce Patton is co-author of Getting to Yes.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This latest how-to from the Harvard Negotiation Project may not spend as long on best-seller lists as Getting to YES (1992), but it will appeal to readers who've endured hostile, annoying, and utterly unproductive talks with family members, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. The authors' central insight is that tough conversations are difficult because they blend three layers: each party's version of "what happened"; each party's feelings; and the identity issues the subject raises for each party. By sorting out these three layers and adopting a curious, "learning" approach, one can take on sensitive subjects while strengthening rather than threatening long-term relationships. The authors draw on their background in negotiation, mediation, and law but also on "organizational behavior; cognitive, client-centered, and family therapies; social psychology; communication theory; and the growing body of work around the idea of `dialogue.'" These talented communicators blend a daunting array of disciplines into highly readable and practical advice--advice selected by both The Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club for their readers. Expect requests. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bringing together the insights of such diverse disciplines as law, organizational behavior, cognitive, family and social psychology and "dialogue" studies, Stone, Patton and Heen, who teach at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project, illustrate how to handle the challenges involved in effectively resolving "difficult conversations," whether in an interpersonal, business or political context. While many of their points are simplisticÄdon't ignore your feelings, consider the other person's intentions, take a break from the situationÄthey're often overlooked in stressful moments. Most useful are the strategies for disarming the impulse to lay blame and for exploring one's own contribution to a tense situation. Also of value are specific recommendations for bringing emotions directly into a difficult discussion by talking about them and paying attention to the way they can subtly inform judgments and accusations. If these recommendations aren't followed, the authors contend, emotions will seep into the discussion in other, usually damaging, ways. Stone, Patton and Heen illustrate their points with anecdotes, scripted conversations and familiar examples in a clear, easy-to-browse format. While "difficult conversations" may not have the intrinsic appeal of the Harvard Negotiation Project's previous bestseller, Getting to Yes, this book is a cogent resource for those who see the sense in preparing for tough talks in advance. Agent, Esther Newberg. Ad/promo; author tour. (Apr.) FYI: Patton is the co-author of Getting to Yes. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Stone and his coauthors, teachers at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project, present an informative, practical guide to the art of handling difficult conversationsÄe.g., firing an employee, ending a relationship, or discussing marital conflicts. The information is based on 15 years of research and thousands of personal interviews. The authors define a difficult conversation as "anything you find it hard to talk about." Each chapter recommends step-by-step techniques that can lead to a more constructive approach for dealing with distressing interactions, so that a difficult conversation can become a learning conversation. Examples of right and wrong conversations from everyday life are used throughout the book, which is extremely well organized and easy to follow. This will be appreciated by readers who wish to improve oral communication in all aspects of their daily lives. Recommended for self-help collections in public and academic libraries.ÄElizabeth Goeters, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Dunwoody (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Roger Fisher
Forewordp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xv
The Problemp. 1
1 Sort Out the Three Conversationsp. 3
Shift to a Learning Stancep. 21
The "What Happened?" Conversationp. 23
2 Stop Arguing About Who's Right: Explore Each Other's Storiesp. 25
3 Don't Assume They Meant It: Disentangle Intent from Impactp. 44
4 Abandon Blame: Map the Contribution Systemp. 58
The Feelings Conversationp. 83
5 Have Your Feelings (Or They Will Have You)p. 85
The Identity Conversationp. 109
6 Ground Your Identity: Ask Yourself What's at Stakep. 111
Create a Learning Conversationp. 129
7 What's Your Purpose? When to Raise It and When to Let Gop. 131
8 Getting Started: Begin from the Third Storyp. 147
9 Learning: Listen from the Inside Outp. 163
10 Expression: Speak for Yourself with Clarity and Powerp. 185
11 Problem-Solving: Take the Leadp. 201
12 Putting It All Togetherp. 217
A Road Map to Difficult Conversationsp. 235
A Note on Some Relevant Organizationsp. 249