Difficult Conversations Hardcover – Mar 30 1999
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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!
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on July 8 2012 by BelleH
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 morePublished on March 4 2011 by island reader
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 morePublished on July 7 2004 by Kazunori
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
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
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 morePublished on April 17 2004 by B. Viberg
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 morePublished on April 15 2004
The trend in business books on management and leadership is to reemphasize
the human component. Read more
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