Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
by Sheila Heen, Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone
Whew. There are a lot of tough conversations we need to have every day. Some of them are always going to be difficult—like a breakup or a hostage negotiation or telling your fundamentalist parents that you're gay. Then there are the everyday sort of conversations that don't *have* to be difficult but often are—stuff like deciding with your spouse what to have for dinner, asking the person in front of you in the movies to remove their top hat, or negotiating how often dishes get done or what kind of music to play at work. Easy or hard, it turns out that these conversations are all pretty much the same—you need to figure out where the other person is coming from (aka listening), where YOU are coming from (getting in touch with your feelings and identity helps, as does a bit of advance planning), and developing some tools for managing different reactions from you or others (like when to ask more questions instead of reacting, or when to just let it go). Talking about the hard stuff is a skill like any other and you can absolutely learn it at any point in life.
This book is by folks from the Harvard Negotiation Project, which is the organization that created the awesome negotiating classic Getting to Yes, which we also can't recommend enough. Hurray for less stress, better boundaries and more clear communication!
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