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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most Paperback – November 2, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 247 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen teach at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project. They have been consultants to businesspeople, governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world, and have written on negotiation and communication in publications ranging from the New York Times to Parents magazine. Bruce Patton is also a co-author of Getting to Yes. Each of them lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Stone and Heen are the authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When It Is Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You're Not in the Mood) (Viking/Penguin, 2014)

Roger Fisher is the Samuel Williston Professor of Law Emeritus, Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and the founder of two consulting organizations devoted to strategic advice and negotiation training.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 10 Anv Upd edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118442
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (247 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Blaine Greenfield on January 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
A book on CD called to me when I saw its captivating title: DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS: HOW TO DISUCSS WHAT MATTERS MOST--written and read by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen.

The fact that Patton was one of the authors also caught my attention, in that he was the coauthor of one of my favorite books on negotiations, GETTING TO YES!

This effort covers such topics as dealing with your ex-husband who can't seem to show up reliably for weekends with the kinds navigating a workplace fraught with office politics or racial tensions, and saying "I'm sorry" or "I love you." No matter who we are, we've all had to have similar conversations and too often, they don't go as well as we would like.

DIFFICULT CONVERSATONS at least makes them easier by providing such useful advice as the following:

* Use "and" to help you become clearer; e.g.,, "I understand what you're saying, and I feel this way."

* Put things on the table without judgments.

* Saying "I feel" will cause the other person to be less likely to argue with you.

* Postponing a conversation can sometimes be helpful.

* Sometimes, actions are better than conversations; e.g., going to a mother's home rather than always being asked, "When are you going to come home?"

* People are more likely to change when they don't have to.

* If you don't have a question, don't ask one; e.g., "Are you going to clean the refrigerator?" vs. "Please clean the refrigerator."

And this one final tidbit, which I have personally found very useful: Be careful when making judgments. It is easy to say, "Spanking is wrong," but a better way to say this might well be, "I believe spanking is wrong."
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Format: Paperback
This book (the 2000 version) saved my sanity once and got me through a very stressful family time. Not only did it help with my relationships, it helped me to think about the problem in a different way that gave me greater peace of mind and clarity of thought and purpose. Everyone on the planet should buy, not borrow, this book, and read it every year.
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I don't normally write reviews, but this book was great. I was skeptical and figured it would just list a bunch of suggestions that aren't practical in the real world, but I was wrong. Some of the material was very eye-opening, especially the topics that deal with looking at yourself to see how you may be contributing to the problem. Highly recommended!
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By Nik E. on September 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
I like this book. It doesn't presume that it will solve your problems. It acknowledges that the other party has to want to participate in fixing the problem. It basically just tells you techniques on how not to make the situation worse, and what will likely lead to an improvement.

After reading it, the problems don't seem less daunting, but I do feel more confident knowing what mistakes I've been making in the past. I used to be the type who thought if I had the loudest and most fear-inducing bark, then I'd be sure to get my way. I figured out after a number of shouting matches hurling hurtful words that that doesn't work. Eventually, I became the type to avoid arguments altogether believing they weren't worth it, and whatever problem it was, I'd have to live with it (b/c from my experience no matter what is said or done people are going to see only their point of view and therefore not desire to accommodate me). That made me miserable. I became the most passive aggressive person you'll ever meet, lol. I wouldn't bother to have a conversation, just react by cutting off the person, avoiding eye contact with them, or just quitting.

This book has been really enlighting b/c I do so many of the things they warn against. I definitely suffer identity crises, and take the all-or-nothing stance. I do assume I know someone's intent when their actions have affected me negatively. This is going to take a lot of practice, but I already know the alternative, and I don't want to end up alone and jobless, so this is what I'll have to do.
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I found Stone, Patton, and Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project helpful in bringing professional negotiating skills to bear on the problems of everday life. Their premise is that every conversation is really three conversations: the "what happened" conversation, the emotional conversation and the indentity conversation. This helps one seperate these three conversations that get stuck together in one's mind. The book gives the reader tools that allow them to turn any difficult conversation into a learning opportunity. As I have applied these tools to my difficult conversations they may not have become easier, but I feel they have been less destructive and certianly less intimidating. I have found using the print book with repeated listenings to the audio book version has helped the concepts become more second nature and accessible to me in the moments I need them the most. Recomended reading for anyone, because we all have difficult conversations once in a while
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Format: Paperback
I am training to be a mediator and this book was distributed to us as a bible for engaging in difficult conversations. For me, the book is most helpful in illuminating why conversations can be so difficult or intense. It helps break them down into parts or in slow motion so you can understand better what is creating the roadblock, or the resistance. For instance, most difficult conversations have unspoken emotions underlying them. This book aims at helping you identify yours and others since without understanding the underlying emotions, most people can't truly understand each other. The book is very helpful but as with all true change, it takes focus and plenty of practice. A workbook containing tons of hypothetical examples to accompany this book would be very helpful to practice the principles. Having said that, I am sending a copy to my two young adult nephews. I think young adults who are just now facing difficult roommates, intimidating bosses, manipulative co-workers would find this book a godsend. And since they haven't had years to develop bad habits like the rest of us, they probably won't need the workbook! :)
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