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Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most [Paperback]

Douglas Stone , Bruce Patton , Sheila Heen , Roger Fisher
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 2, 2010
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, Difficult Conversations provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success. you'll learn how to:

• Decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation
• Start a conversation without defensiveness
• Listen for the meaning of what is not said
• Stay balanced in the face of attacks and accusations
• Move from emotion to productive problem solving

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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.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my top three recommended books December 7, 2010
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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very pragmatic September 17, 2013
By Nik E.
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - very eye-opening! May 18, 2012
By JM555
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book on a great subject September 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I will start by admitting I have terrible communication skills and sought this book out after reading about it in "Almost a psychopath," by Jim Silver. I know what I want to say does not normally come out the way I tend for it to do which has caused me countless unnecessary trouble in my life. I thought the layout of the book and its contents were incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed how the authors utilized different learning styles as much as book could allow, for example pseudo conversations, tables, graphs, etc. I've noticed a difference in how I approach and react to conversations whether they be difficult or day to day. However I still am struggling with trying to communicate effectively with a loved one in my life, in time with practice I have faith my goals will be completed. I enjoyed the responses to the top 10 FAQ in the back, the part on email and texting have been a real life saver! Since reading this book I've also added some new ones of my lists of books to read. Outstanding read and I recommend it to everyone since we all communicate with each other in some form or another.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome book on this topic due to superb presentation and clarity; worth every penny.
Published 11 days ago by Puwak-badilla
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable
The book is intact. Just wasn't expecting it to be that "used". But I'm able to read it and the price was great :)
Published 15 days ago by Lillady4769
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not who's right...it's what's right
It's not who's right...it's what's right. If you are a leader, this is a must read. How do you resolve conflicts on teams or hold people accountable? Read more
Published 20 days ago by LeeAndra K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't avoid a difficult conversation, do it thoughtfully
Quick read with very useful examples of how to approach necessary but potentially inflammatory conversations, often by looking at the situation from a different perspective than... Read more
Published 29 days ago by SteelBlue330
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good reading
Published 1 month ago by J G
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Most people should find it helpful in improving interpersonal relationships.
Published 1 month ago by H. Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely insightful and helpful book
Excellent book! The concepts and practices can change your life and relationships for the better. I'm using it to prepare for a difficult conversation I know is coming up.
Published 1 month ago by Wendy Mayfield
4.0 out of 5 stars definitely helpful, worthwhile read, but....
I have to agree with a number of other reviews that the examples given, or at least the amount of them, is overkill. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kevin Healey
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written and very helpful.
Nicely written and very helpful.
Published 1 month ago by Yuri
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Insightful and useful! Highly recommended!
Published 2 months ago by F C
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