Book Review: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most


We are all haunted  by past conversations that did not go the way we wanted.  We keep thinking of things we could of said and remain angry that the other person couldn’t just get what we were trying to express.

Difficult Conversations gives us many of the answers to what went wrong and gives us advice on how to resolve the conflict and repair the damage caused.

The book is less about tricks to manipulate people into getting what you want and more of a textbook on the anatomy of a difficult conversation and how to successfully participate in it.

You are encouraged to look at the conversation as an opportunity to learn so that you can find a solution.  Often, there is much more going on than either person knows.  The book describes conversations as having three levels: the “What Happened?” conversation, the feelings conversation, and the identity conversation.

If the discussion doesn’t also address people’s emotions and sense of self, it is likely to fail in getting to the real issue at hand and therefore a resolution.

A healthy conversation will include a shift from blaming to understanding each party’s contribution, active listening to understand each others’ perspective, and an understanding that there is always room to grow.

After teaching you the makings of a difficult conversation, the book moves on to show how to actually have such a conversation.  It recognizes that the other person will not likely have to read this book and gives suggestions on how to handle such conversations.

Overall, I found the book very helpful.  It is straightforward and provides plenty of example conversations.  The samples are more successful than I suspect my own first difficult conversations will be, however.  The book takes some time to get through, at least for me, because I often found myself dwelling on past conversations that could have helped with this advice and also because some of the new techniques are difficult for me to adjust to.

Specifically what the book calls the “And Stance.”  It’s the idea that you recognize the others’ feelings and your own by something like, “I realize that family time is important AND I’m still going to work late this evening.”  It is just too ingrained to put a but,yet, or however as the link in that sentence.  It is something that I will have to work on.

I borrowed this book from the library but will be buying a copy because it is the sort of book that will be read and reread and bookmarked for future reference.



One thought on “Book Review: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

  1. I’d be really curious about this book. We had a training at work about difficult conversations and it was kind of flowery. This sounds like a winner, though. Thanks for the review!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s