Brief Description of Essential Information
Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP), wrote the book, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Viking Press originally published the 234-page book in 1999. This self-help book, ISBN 0-670-88339-5, is available for purchase on Amazon for $24.95.
Communication skills are important in professional negotiations and in personal life. This book discusses why we find some dialogue difficult, why we avoid it, and why we often address it ineffectively. Most important, the authors suggest methods for more effective, productive, and rewarding, interaction.
The thesis, or the main idea of the book, is that by using specific communication techniques, we can turn difficult discussions into productive learning conversations.
Overview of Main Points
The book is divided into two main sections. In the first section, “Shift to a Learning Stance”, the authors suggest that each difficult conversation actually involves three concurrent conversations: the “what happened” conversation, the feelings conversation, and the identity conversation. The “what happened” conversation is complicated by the differing perspectives of the participants. Although parties often agree on basic facts, there are differences of opinion regarding the interpretation of their meaning or importance. These diverse viewpoints may be the result of differences in personality, exposure to different information, or different life experiences. Progress toward a learning conversation requires letting go of strong mindsets and shifting toward genuine curiosity about the other’s point of view. Adoption of the “And Stance” can be helpf...
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...om an unbiased perspective, engage in self-discovery, listen from a stance of genuine curiosity, ask questions, and pay attention to feelings. Finally, with consideration for both perspectives, we can begin problem solving. The authors of Difficult Conversations suggest working toward a productive, learning conversation, and they offer realistic advice on obtaining this objective. I am glad that I had the opportunity, and that I took the time, to read this book. It has empowered me to tackle difficult conversations with confidence, and it has changed my approach to problem solving.
Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (1999). Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most. New York, NY: Viking Press.
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