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Learn the key ideas of the book by Douglas Stone , Bruce Patton , Sheila Heen

Difficult Conversations

Managing arguments without stress

We find ourselves facing a potentially difficult conversation every time the issues at stake are particularly important to us, are about our feelings, make us vulnerable or threaten our identity. There is no easy way to deal with a difficult conversation, but learning to manage it can relieve anxiety and improve relationships. This book provides us with the tools to help us manage a difficult discussion, transforming a potential war of words into a constructive conversation.

Difficult Conversations
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There is no easy way to face a difficult conversation

When we think about subjects that are difficult to discuss, socially controversial topics immediately come to mind, such as sex, race, gender, politics and religion. In reality, we find ourselves having to have a potentially difficult conversation every time the subject at hand, or the person that we need to talk to, is particularly important to us; when we feel vulnerable, our self-esteem comes into play and we simply don’t know how the discussion is going to go.

In these cases the common tendency is to avoid bringing up the subject for as long as we possibly can, because we are seriously afraid of the consequences: we might be pushed away or personally attacked, we could hurt the other person and even though that is not our intention, our relationship with them would suffer. The truth is, however, that avoiding the conversation altogether also has its own consequences: our feelings and emotions are affected and we miss out on an opportunity to make things better.

So we ask ourselves whether using an effective strategy could help us to deal with a delicate discussion in a more diplomatic way, but we need to be aware that no matter how tactful we are, communicating a difficult message is like throwing a hand grenade: there is no easy or painless way to fire someone, end a relationship or deal with a friend’s hurt feelings. Having said this, keeping the grenade in your hand isn’t any better either; this is why we often feel stuck in these types of situations.

In this book the authors, who are experts in the art of negotiation, will help us to constructively overcome the stalemate, showing us how to transform a potential war of words into a learning conversation.


The key ideas of "Difficult Conversations"

There is no easy way to face a difficult conversation
The three inner conversations: facts, feelings and identity
To have a learning conversation, explore both sides of the story, recognise the contribution that both parties make, create space for feelings and consider the complexity of identity
Bringing up a conversation is not always the right choice: think carefully about your intention and decide whether or not to go for it
There is one story that helps everyone get along: start by telling the third story
Become an authentic listener: ask questions, sum up what the other person has said and acknowledge their feelings
In a conversation aimed at learning, the knots often untangle themselves; if they don’t, try a solution based on the “mutual care” principal
Take-home message

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