A book of practical and insightful advice for any professional who faces the challenge of having "difficult conversations" - e.g., giving a critical performance review, asking for a raise, confronting disrespectful behavior, or apologizing. Drawing upon work over the past 15 years at the Harvard Negotiation Project, with thousands of individuals engaged in difficult personal and professional conversations, the authors identify a set of dynamics common to virtually any difficult conversation. By exposing the flawed assumptions individuals often hold about such conversations, and by laying out systematic guidelines for how to raise difficult topics, manage emotions, and recognize the impact of self-image on conversations (and the impact of conversations on self-image), the authors provide a pragmatic approach to having productive conversations about difficult issues.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most is currently the #1 purchase on Amazon.com by customers seeking books on conflict resolution and is #2 for those buying books on negotiation. It also ranks #11 and #14 for books on self-help and business, respectively.
“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 contex. 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.Stone, Patton and Heen illustrate their points with anecdotes, scripted conversations and familiar examples in a clear, easy-to-browse - Publishers Weekly
“[Patton, Stone and Sheen] present an informative, practical guide to the art of handling difficult conversations e.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." - Library Journal
“We've all been there: We know we must confront a coworker, store clerk, or friend about some especially sticky situation--and we know the encounter will be uncomfortable. So we repeatedly mull it over until we can no longer put it off, and then finally stumble through the confrontation. Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, offers advice for handling these unpleasant exchanges in a manner that accomplishes their objective and diminishes the possibility that anyone will be needlessly hurt. The authors, associated with Harvard Law School and the Harvard Project on Negotiation, show how such dialogues actually comprise three separate components: the "what happened" conversation (verbalizing what we believe really was said and done), the "feelings" conversation (communicating and acknowledging each party's emotional impact), and the "identity" conversation (expressing the situation's underlying personal meaning). The explanations and suggested improvements are, admittedly, somewhat complicated. And they certainly don't guarantee positive results. But if you honestly are interested in elevating your communication skills, this book will walk you through both mistakes and remedies in a way that will boost your confidence when such unavoidable clashes arise." --Howard Rothman
“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."- Booklist