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Difficult Conversations [Hardcover]

Bruce Patton , Roger Fisher
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 30 1999
Members of the Harvard Negotiation Project--which brought you the mega-bestseller Getting to YES--show you how to handle your most difficult conversations with confidence and skill.

Whether you're dealing with an underperforming 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 conversations every day. Based on fifteen years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project, Difficult Conversations walks you through a step-by-step proven approach to having your toughest conversations with less stress and more success. You will learn:
how to start the conversation without defensiveness
why what is not said is as important as what is
ways of keeping and regaining your balance in the face of attacks and accusations
how to decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation

Filled with examples from everyday life, Difficult Conversations will help you on the job, at home, or out in the world. It is a book you will turn to again and again for advice, practical skills, and reassurance.

Difficult Conversations is a New York Times Business Bestseller.

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From Amazon

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

From Publishers Weekly

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 simplisticAdon't ignore your feelings, consider the other person's intentions, take a break from the situationAthey'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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very highly recommended March 8 2002
When I first picked up this book, I wasn't very optimistic about its content. I've got a rather solid background in conflict resolution and communication, have even taught courses in listening and small group communication. I assumed the book would be more of the same -- here's where you should nod, here's how you reflect, etc.
I was pleased to find that I had misjudged the authors. Reading this book and truly incorporating its advice and philosophies can be a life-changing experience. The content here goes beyond technique and finds firm ground (surprisingly) in speaking about inner issues that arise during difficult conversations -- and it manages to do so without coming off as didactic or flakey. In fact, I would have to say that this is the first "self-help" book that didn't make me a little squirmy and rebellious -- I soaked up the information and found myself relying on the content in real life on a daily basis, and right away.
I also have found myself evangelizing the book to a great extent, and have recommended it to friends I know who are having difficulty with family members, bosses, their children their neighbors -- as well as to a number of my clients who have expressed difficulty in managing up and/or down.
There's something of value for just about anyone here -- even if you are already well-versed in communication and negotiation skills.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concepts and techniques that work July 14 2004
By A Customer
I find this book to be helpful because I have had a life-long struggle with difficult conversations. The section about understanding what is said and unsaid is a key piece of information which has given me greater awareness. The procedures require commitment and practice. Don't expect to get it right the first time or every time. I put an extra piece of information into practice every few days. I would also recommend another book, Crucial Conversations for another perspective on emotionally charged conversations, and Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self to learn how to make the most of any situation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cogent, well-written, concise and very useful May 14 2004
Having researched numerous books on this subject, I found this to be one of the best. The book is structured well: the introduction gives an apt overview, the writing is simple and to the point, with excellent examples and an outline provided to assist with a final review.
One of the book's strongest points is its focus on the underlying problems that create situations where conversation becomes difficult. The temptation to digress and meander into a quagmire of various psychological/environmental/biological explainations can be great, but the writers stays the course, using only pertinent examples and explainations, keeping the book fairly short and to the point.
Many works of this genre focus on superficial fixes. Some of those do work, particularly for short term situations. However, the topics covered in this book go a little below that superficial surface, often seriously questioning common behaviors that often contribute and prolong difficult conversations/situations.
A caveat: the recommended techniques hold great promise, but using them requires quite a bit of work. Unlike the many fixes from other sources, there are no promises of immediate success. Instead, there may be many obstacles both from the self and from others that will come up.
However, perserverance does seem to pay off. I work at a large law firm and the perpectives and solutions offered in this work has made my work easier and more productive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Who it's for: If you ever avoid difficult conversations, or launch into them and then wish desperately that things had gone differently, then this book is for you.

Conflict is inevitable. But in business and life we often avoid essential conversations like asking for a well-deserved raise, giving feedback to a touchy staff-member or confronting a friend who has been undermining us.

It doesn't have to be that way. This invaluable book gives you the lowdown on a rare life-skill that will help you:
- Shine as you move up the corporate ladder (and preserve your sanity too!)
- Move more easily through your personal relationships (think friends, parents, children, partners)

While the book is quite left-brained, the concepts are straightforward and well developed. You can keep going back to this book - ESSENTIAL READING!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ivy League Lawyer Geeks interpret Family Therapy April 18 1999
By A Customer
Very disappointing, thin material presented in double space format and large type to bulk up a thinly veiled version of family therapy technique. The chapter on Listening is particularly facile and lacking any rigor or new ideas apart from bashing active listening. Urging the importance of "authenticity" is pricelessly ironic from our lawyer authors. I was hoping for some new ideas but was presented with the pablum of family therapy techniques watered down for the masses. Forget this book despite the heavy duty PR blurb on the covers extolling its virtues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Helpful! Feb. 21 2004
By A Customer
I didn't think there was any help for my difficult conversatons, so I was surprised to find this informations so thorough and helpful. The material is very well organized. "Difficult Conversations" gave me real, practical strategies that have made a big difference in my ease in bringing up tricky conversations and working through them with positive results. Everyone in my family has agreed to listen to the audio program, which will be a big help in our communication. I highly recommend it.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read for first time managers
This book is an excellent read for first time people managers! It helped me to understand how to approach situations and different types of people. Read more
Published on July 8 2012 by BelleH
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every library
If you are breathing you need this book. We all encounter difficult conversations on a daily basis. Whether with co-workers, clients, family, friends, spouse, your doctor, lawyer,... Read more
Published on March 4 2011 by island reader
2.0 out of 5 stars Too obvious...what we need is a difficult relationships book
The stuff in this book should be obvious to most reasonable people. If you're having problems at this level, you still have a long way to go in terms of dealing with truly... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by Kazunori
1.0 out of 5 stars "A Dangerous book in the hands of morons"! (NY, USA)
Well the reviewer has got a great sense of humour! I was laughing my a*se off!
It sems so many people do not practice what they preach. Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by William Bryden-Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous book in the hands of morons
The other day a shipment of the book "Difficult Conversations" arrived at our office.
Today someone pulled me aside and told me that 80% of all communication is not... Read more
Published on June 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most
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... Read more
Published on April 17 2004 by B. Viberg
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty close to perfect--for my purposes
After a painful and difficult series of conversations with my mom and brother over Christmas (read: angry, frustrating), before he left, my brother asked me to find a simple set... Read more
Published on April 15 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for anyone.
The trend in business books on management and leadership is to reemphasize
the human component. Read more
Published on March 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, Detailed Information
In a practical yet detailed manner, this book helps you to understand the issues surrounding tense discussions. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Kenneth McGhee
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