Difficult Conversations

By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

Book cover of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Book description

The 10th-anniversary edition of the New York Times business bestseller-now updated with "Answers to Ten Questions People Ask"

We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the organization that brought you…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Difficult Conversations as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I love this book because it says that all conversations take place on 3 different levels. 

There is the content level, the most obvious; the emotional level, how important the subject is and the emotions around it; and the internal level of “what does this conversation say about me,” which is the shame level. This level may be the most important and the most hidden.

From Bret's list on healing shame and trauma.

Emergent research from the Harvard Negotiation Project helps readers identify different parts of conflictual conversations.

The idea of Intention vs. Impact came from this book. Personally, understanding that hard conversations are built on the ground of deep meaning, and actually build deeper connection has been a throughline in my work. Leaning into the tough stuff, as opposed to trying to escape discomfort is a radical practice and a necessary skill. 

For most of my life, I avoided conflict. I was a classic people pleaser. But this book, and the work by academic Chris Argyris that helped inspire it, quite literally changed my life. The book offers practical ways to engage in productive disagreement, to have tough conversations with a better hope of a good outcome. It’s a short and easy read, with lots of very practical tools for navigating the conversations you may be dreading.

We all have difficult conversations, both at home and in the workplace. You can try to defer them, you can’t entirely avoid them, but you can definitely do better at them, and this book shows you how. Difficult Conversations cuts to the heart of many conflicts by forcing us to recognize how we add fuel to the fire, even if we didn’t start it. But it doesn’t just lay the problem at your feet and leave you feeling guilty and unsatisfied, it gives you a roadmap to having more productive conversations about hard stuff.

From Danny's list on for negotiations that really matter.

I am one of the world’s most renowned conflict resolution scholars. But when some particularly challenging interpersonal troubles bubbled up between members of the staff at my Center at Columbia, I reached for this book. Why? Because my spouse, who is a clinical psychologist and works with couples, had years before insisted that I read it carefully. I did and found it immensely practical and helpful. So, when tensions arose at our Center, I asked all the staff to read it and started our process of resolution and healing with this shared understanding of what was going on and what…

The book begins by looking at the structure of difficult conversations and how people often think one thing and say another, struggling in the thinking of what to share and what to keep to oneself. The authors share a great deal of important information about how to listen well, how to avoid blaming others, and how to appropriately acknowledge the feelings of others. It’s a wonderful book that will lead to more connection in your work and personal lives.

From M.J.'s list on become an exceptional manager.

This is a topic I took a clumsy stab at in Wicked Conversations. In Difficult Conversations, the authors present a thoughtful and easily executed approach based on neuroscience, psychology, and collaborative wellness. This is an approachable work on a challenging topic that is necessary to embrace in order to live well.

From Scott's list on living the good life.

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