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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  10,825 ratings  ·  730 reviews
Whether you're dealing with an under performing employee, disagreeing with your spouse about money or child-rearing, negotiating with a difficult client, or simply saying "no," or "I'm sorry," or "I love you," we attempt or avoid difficult conversation every day. Based on fifteen years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project, Difficult Conversations walks you ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published April 1st 1999)
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Eduard Lopez I didn't read Crucial Conversations. Difficult Conversations focus on raising your awareness of what's going on outside and inside you so you can…moreI didn't read Crucial Conversations. Difficult Conversations focus on raising your awareness of what's going on outside and inside you so you can better adjust yourself not to get lost in the emotional state that usually surrounds those types of conversations. Personally, it has helped me to regulate the approach to these situations and give a mental structure to help in the process.(less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Slappy
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Difficult Conversations is a how-to self-help book on negotiating conflict in emotionally-loaded discussions between two people. Authored by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project (which sounds awfully prestigious), the book is lucid and accessible.

A "difficult conversation," according to Stone et al, is "anything you find it hard to talk about":

Sexuality, race, gender, politics, and religion come quickly to mind as difficult topics to discuss, and for many of us they are. But discomfort and
...more
Otis Chandler
Aug 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
I read this on a recommendation from a friend who gave it to me on a list of business books to read. But it was so much more. It gives you a great framework for thinking through why people have communication issues - whether in personal or professional relationships.

The best piece of advice that stuck with me is to always explain where you are coming from in a discussion. "I did it this way because...". Sometimes we think its obvious and it isn't, and it always helps the conversation when people
...more
Jaclyn
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it
My husband and I both have ADHD, and that makes for some major communication challenges. This book will help anyone get a better handle on tricky interactions. It should be required reading for anyone who hasn’t done mediation or communication training (I have, but still learned a lot).

Difficult Conversations separates readers from our own narrative and reveals the reasons underlying others’ hot-headed — and often baffling — reactions.

Buyer beware, though: this isn’t the only book you’ll ever
...more
Dee Arr
Conversations make up a significant portion of many of our days. Minor or major clashes can lead to issues at work and home, and may ultimately contribute to significant problems in our marriages, jobs, and friendships. Wishing for positive outcomes or for other people to be more reasonable seldom works.

“Difficult Conversations,” written by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, offers constructive tips on how to navigate through those encounters. The authors tell us that “…human
...more
Mimi
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You know that book that you recommend to everyone because you feel so strongly it can help anyone change their life in profound ways? This one is mine. It sat in my book pile for years and I would pick it up and put it down. I wish I had truly read it years earlier and I wish the same for you.

In case you're wondering, yes I have used what I learned in this book on you. If you're lucky I'll use it on you again in the future.
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
What a piece of shit book. Ok, so this was touted as THE book to solve the personnel problems at the food coop I used to work at. My boss, being a corporate minded, new-ager, pop-psychology fan, was told by other managers that if she got the workers to read this book, then problems would practically dissolve. We were asked to read it voluntarily. I was disappointed that I had wasted my time to read it.

There are many things I dislike about it. One is that it speaks in the voice of management--not
...more
Ellie
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I don't read many self help books any more and apparently (according to Goodreads) I've already read this one before and rated it 3 stars.

This time it goes up to 4 stars. And I found it so interesting and potentially helpful I replaced my library copy with a tree one as soon as I finished.

I'm not good at having "difficult conversations". I do everything the authors say will happen if you avoid them: complain to my family, friends, co-workers. Anything to avoid confronting the object of my
...more
Jessica
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I constantly recommend this book to friends, family and colleagues. It was introduced to me in a negotiations class and I learned the most from this book over any other book I was made to read in my graduate studies.

Although everyone would benefit from this book - I especially recommend this book to women for a particular reason. Female characteristics and emotions such as empathy and sensitivity can be great assets in life (don't let men tell you otherwise). However, especially in the
...more
Laleh
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book enough. Clear, precise, to the point, it does exactly what it sets out to do.

Although the book comes too late to save many a conversation I wish I'd never had, but hopefully I'll be able to manage my conversations more skillfully in the future.
Debra
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone!
Although some of the tips may sound a little corny, I think this is a great book for pretty much everyone to read. I definitely noticed a lot of the negative traps I fall into and I want to try some of the new tips suggested in the book.
Kirtida Gautam
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chakra-3
It's a brilliant book that tells how humans sometimes fail to create impact in conversation because they fail to see the point of view of other people.
Jonathan Newman
One of the easiest 5 stars I’ve given. Consider this a must-read for life. It might sound overly dramatic, but it’s probably the most immediately and extensively helpful book I’ve ever read. Why? Because of the caliber and practicality with which I feel it’s equipping me and others to face what can bring the vast majority of pain and hardship in our lives: relationships with people. This book changed the life and partly saved the career of someone I know whose leadership impacts a lot of people, ...more
Kara
This is a true "missing manual". Contains so many effective strategies for getting to the heart of difficult issues and exploring them more collaboratively.

I've noticed that some books in communication have more manipulative approaches for "influencing others", so I like how this one focuses on genuinely trying to understand the other person and how to express yourself in a way that is more productive.

Overall, very insightful. Definitely will be able to use some of these tips on a daily basis.
Mark
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Read at the insistence of my wife. I think she was trying to tell me something. Not sure what it was. Back to nerd fiction!
Adam Wiggins
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
Solid advice, illustrated with copious examples, on how to tackle emotionally-charged conversations in the workplace, romantic life, and family life.

As always, examples are worth a thousand words of exposition. The examples in this book are extremely well-done -- in fact, I suspect if they were extracted to stand on their own without any of the accompanying explanation, the book's thesis still would have come through quite clearly.

My takeaways:

Break down your thoughts (and the conversation) into
...more
Andreea
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This books has a lot of examples and while reading through them it’s impossible not to recognise a situation in which you have been. It’s amazing how much we speak and how bad we are at conversations.

A conversation is affected by the image people have about themselves. People react when a conversation affects their identity. So the way one handles conversations is determined by how much one knows himself.

One of the best advices is to express your feelings. Once you manage to do that during a
...more
Philipp
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
A good guide to 'difficult conversations' with boss/spouse/people, i.e., clashing stories, themes that endanger your self-image, and emotions, it contains some valuable advice on how to incorporate everyone's and your own feelings in a mature way during a conversation.

But: For the love of all that is holy, do not follow the advice contained in this book with children. I had teachers who went to university in the 'progressive' 70s, so what they talked about all day is your feelings and their
...more
Gareth Davies
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: career, leadership
A very challenging read, in a good way. There's so much to take in and learn from this book if you are already a fairly competent communicator this will take you to the next level if you can absorb and take on board the wisdom contained within.

It deals with the hardest area for us as humans to deal with, conflict, disagreements, emotions and difficult conversations in a very structured way with checklists, sample conversations and strategies to implement the tactics.

It's extremely actionable and
...more
Emily Graham
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was actually really helpful.
Islam
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
A book that makes a simple practice needlessly complicated, and then tries to put order to that complication.

The authors clearly declare in the beginning of the book, that some conversations are just hard and no matter what you do, they'll always be. This book will not provide you with a magic trick that makes them easy.

If you don't think you have a problem with conducting conversations reading this book will not do you any good, it's not one of those books that you read to get "even better".

...more
Andrés
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's no reason why not to recommend this book to everyone. Life has difficult conversations. This is a valuable and sensible set of tools to make them more manageable. It's also a good motivation for introspection: we don't communicate as well as we think we do.

No hay razón para no recomendar este libro a todo el mundo. La vida tiene conversaciones difíciles y este libro presenta una colección de herramientas bastante valiosas y razonables para poder enfrentarlas de mejor manera. También
...more
Blundell
May 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
didn't relate to this book at all, I'd get interested by the first point of a chapter then it would seem to meander off and I'd lose interest. I think I put this book on my reading list when I wasn't as mature a person :-) , this book explains how feeling and how people see you matter more than truth or blame. It didn't need to be as long as it did (and to be fair I skipped a few chapters as it was that dry). You may find a it a different experience. who knows!
Sandra
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. I highly recommend it to anybody who.. talks to other people, basically. The strategies described are very complex and I think it takes quite some time and dedication to get them working.
Jennifer
Apr 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
It's...yeah. I feel like it theorizes more than tells us explicitly what to do. I would not call this a particularly successful self-help book.
Sean Goh
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
From the summary:

Venting your emotions is not useful. Describing them carefully can be.

3 parts to a conversation:
1. What happened? Assigning blame and fault, asserting dominance. Can lead to struggles and bad feelings.
2. Feelings. Whose feelings are appropriate? Do you have a right to your feelings? Often the conversation does not specifically address the participants' feelings, but these emotions inform it, and determine its intensity and course.
3. Identity, which is internal to each person.
...more
Sergey Kochergan
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book on negotiation!
Suzy
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am very glad that I read this book, and I feel sure that it will have a positive impact on all difficult conversations I have from here on out. I tend to be a conflict avoider who puts off (or stuffs) difficult conversations, but now I feel that I don't necessarily have to view difficult conversations as conflict. In many difficult conversations I have had in the past, I have felt variously that the other people are trying to win by being loud, emotional, interruptive or verbally manipulative. ...more
Ben Christensen
Difficult Conversations is one of those books where I went into it with mediocre expectations, and ended up really liking it.

It wasn't a book fully of one-liner truisms that everyone wants to highlight, but instead more of its merit was in how it built and connected different larger concepts, and used stylized examples to illustrate or cement them in place.

The book focused on a few of the underlying factors that cause the various difficult conversations we face in life (in work, relationships,
...more
Stacey
In my opinion, this is a must-read for everyone. I've learned so much already and have been flying through it, it's that easy to read.

A big-picture look at all kinds of difficult conversations, it shares a template for preparing for, reframing, thinking clearly about, and having difficult conversations. What's a difficult conversation? Any that you really don't want to have. One that makes you anxious or upset.

It won't give you a template for negotiating a raise, for example, but it gives you
...more
Sergey Shishkin
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Liked the structure of the book, which covers the following:
- separate facts from interpretations;
- acknowledge feelings and avoid assumptions and accusations;
- understand and acknowledge how your own identity (e.g. self-worth) is impacted by the issue;

Authors also highlight other helpful techniques throughout the book: active listening, learning conversations, 3rd party version of the story and shared contributions to the problem.

I particularly liked that authors narrated the audiobook and
...more
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Difficult conversations 1 5 Sep 11, 2019 01:17PM  
Human Resources B...: Book Discussion: Difficult Conversations 6 5 Jan 16, 2018 01:16AM  

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“The single most important thing [you can do] is to shift [your] internal stance from "I understand" to "Help me understand." Everything else follows from that. . . .

Remind yourself that if you think you already understand how someone feels or what they are trying to say, it is a delusion. Remember a time when you were sure you were right and then discovered one little fact that changed everything. There is always more to learn.”
19 likes
“People almost never change without first feeling understood.” 7 likes
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