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Difficult Conversations Hardcover – Mar 30 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking USA (March 30 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670883395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670883394
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #438,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Jones Neighbors on March 8 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on July 14 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By aconsumersballad on May 14 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By Mrs. Emma L. Elsey on May 28 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on April 18 1999
Format: Hardcover
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 By A Customer on Feb. 21 2004
Format: Paperback
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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