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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  14,514 ratings  ·  889 reviews
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 Getting to Yes
Paperback, 315 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 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 bett…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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Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Otis Chandler
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
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.
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ne
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
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 interact
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
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 discom
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 male-dom
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Kirtida Gautam
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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.
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Below are my reading notes from this useful book. I've tried to distill what I thought was their best advice. Hopefully it is of use to anyone who doesn't have the time to read the full book.

“When someone says something with which you disagree, ask them how they know that it’s true. Often the reasoning or a factual premise, rather than just the conclusion, is where the difference lies.” – paraphrasing Peter Boghossian

Overall Attitude:

• Rather than assuming that you absolutely need to convince a
Adam Wiggins
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
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 co
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 feel
Gareth Davies
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily Graham
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was actually really helpful.
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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".

Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 fun
May 28, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Sergey Kochergan
One of the best book on negotiation!
Sean Goh
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. Ar
Is the goal of the discussion to get something from the other person, or to work with them to find a good solution? I found this book to be practical, with helpful insights into undercurrents in conflicts, things we mean but don't communicate clearly.

My main criticism is that it's solely pragmatic, without any real reason not to tear into others or foundation for defining who I am. Yes, part of what makes conflict difficult is feeling our identity is threatened. But I need more tools than that!
One of the most practical and useful books about effective communication and conflict management that I've read.
I've read it right after finishing "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall B. Rosenberg, and while both books explore very similar ideas and techniques, I've found Rosenberg's book a bit too theoretical.
"Difficult Conversations", on the other hand, gave me much more food for thought and helped me to see better how I can communicate better in various situations in my life. I keep recom
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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, e
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Difficult conversations 1 7 Sep 11, 2019 01:17PM  
Human Resources B...: Book Discussion: Difficult Conversations 6 11 Jan 16, 2018 01:16AM  

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When it comes to whiling away the dog days of summer, nothing is better than a good book. Or two. Or three. Let’s say ten! We’re getting...
29 likes · 5 comments
“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.”
“difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.” 10 likes
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