Books, Personal Project, Professional Development

Book 475: Difficult Conversations – Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen

stone-douglas-bruce-patton-and-sheila-heen-difficult-conversationsNow that it’s been almost a month I figured I might as well catch up on some books. I’ve actually made quite a bit of progress reading this month, given the facts of everything that’s going on and  affects my day-to-day work life (thanks Trump).

This book came to me from my current Human Resources Director when I spoke with her about how not-so-great Miguel Ruiz’s books were. Based on our few previous conversations she was like you should try this one because it’s more of a practical guide and less “worldly wisdom.” And boy was she right!

Even though the two books say basically the same thing, this one was so much easier to identify with and take action points away from it. This could have to do with the fact it was written by a group of Harvard University associated individuals, or it could also have to do with the fact that it was less spiritual and more practical.

I have already been able to implement a lot of what this book suggests and I can tell a difference in some conversations with co-workers. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the easiest to communicate with. I’m ruthlessly efficient in that if it takes too much of my time I skip the niceties and cut to the point. This being done in a monotone voice that really only gets louder of course puts people on edge and even offends some. I’m really trying hard to get better about it, but that’s something that is not easy to change. Whereas what I’m saying and when I’m saying it is something that can be changed. And I’m trying hard on that.

Where this book REALLY came in handy was the addition of the 10 most frequently asked questions. The book did a pretty good job of explaining how to implement its strategies and gave great examples, but in providing those last 10 FAQs it gave me a lot of answers that I was already looking for.

Add in that the book is almost 20 years old and it’s still as pertinent today as it was when it was written, not just because of its application, but because of how they introduced the tenth anniversary edition in 2010:

“As we write this in the spring of 2010, our corner of the world, and many others, face a challenging set of social, political, religious, and moral divides — including the appropriate size and role of government, health care reform, education reform, abortion, gay marriage, immigration policy, homeland security, climate and energy policy, and, of course, the economy. There is at least a perception that fewer and fewer of us are moderates, and that the gap between people of divergent views is growing. Anger and even outrage are prevalent on both sides of the divide. If we are righteous, we think, it is because there is so much at stake, so much fear, and because we are so tired of the other side’s not listening and not caring. We’re sick of the corruption, the lying, the stupidity, the self-interested nonsense that passes for informed opinion and public policy.” (243)

I read this prior to Trump’s inauguration and based on everything that has happened in the last three weeks since his inauguration I can imagine a lot more people need to read this book. Perhaps I will take a page out of our HR Directors book and keep 10 copies handy to pass out when people need them.

Recommendation: Everyone should READ THIS BOOK. Seriously though, you don’t even have to read this for professional development, the applications for personal development and better communication with family members or neighbors (both examples they use) are endless.

Opening Line: “Asking for a raise. Ending a relationship. giving a critical performance review.”

Closing Line: “Giving up requires you to have a difficult conversation with yourself about making a healthy choice — for yourself and those you love — and to be able to forgive yourself. That may be the toughest conversation of all, but one well worth having. Good luck.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)

Additional Quotes from Difficult Conversations
“There are limits to how much you can learn about human interactions from a book. We don’t know the specifics of your situation, what is at stake for you, or where your particular weaknesses and strengths lie. But we have discovered that regardless of the context, the things that make difficult conversations difficult, and the errors in thinking and acting that compound those difficulties, are the same. We all share the same fears and fall into the same few traps. No matter what you are facing, or whom, there is something in this book that can help.” (xxi)

“When we’re the ones acting, we know that much of the time we don’t intend to annoy, offend, or upstage others. We’re wrapped up in our own worries, and are often unaware that we’re having any negative impact on others. When we’re the ones acted upon, however, our story too easily slides into one about bad intentions and bad character.” (48)


4 thoughts on “Book 475: Difficult Conversations – Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen”

  1. This definitely sounds like a book I need to read! I’m in the process of being assessed to see if I’m on the autistic spectrum, so I find “difficult conversations” even more difficult than the average person probably does. I’m also currently applying for post-PhD jobs, some of which are quite senior and involve managing other people, so I imagine I will be having a *lot* of difficult conversations in the next little while. Thanks for the great review–I will be checking this out soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely recommend this. I’m okay with these conversations in general but I’m not a fan of the niceties that have to accompany a lot of them. I see them as a waste of time.

      That being said, that is peer-to-peer, I did find when I began managing someone I’m much better about softening feedback and giving constructive criticism and working to the persons strengths.


  2. This sounds a valuable resource. i like the message that the most difficult conversation is the one you need to have with yourself. The fact that you already know some of the things that you do which don’t help a situation is a critical step in making any progress. Good luck with the implementation!


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