What could you learn from ‘Difficult Conversations’ by Douglas Stone (2016, 234 pages)

There is no magic wand to get people to bend to your will.  While I have explored persuasion in previous books reviews (Pre-suasion) and in my blog (here), there are elements I missed.

In ‘Difficult Conversations’ Douglas Stone presents a compelling framework and set of tools that can help you understand the perspective of others and use this feedback to solve the interpersonal problems you face at work, or at home.

When having a difficult conversation about an event or issue, three conversations are happening at the same time.

  1. The ‘What happened’ conversation.  What you think happened, and how other people actions impacted you.
  2. The feeling conversation. How the impact on you made you feel.
  3. The Identity conversation.  How the conversation influenced your thoughts about your own competence, whether you are a good person and worthy of love

Douglas offers the following tips:

  1. Separate intent from impact – assume good intentions, and that the impact was unintentional
  2. Separate actions from intentions – you cannot know the anyone’s true intentions without asking them
  3. You will make mistakes, intentions are complex, and you will have contributed to the problem
  4. Try to have a learning conversation. Set out to understand other people’s perspective.  How did you both contribute?
  5. Try to communicate your three stories explicitly.  Talk through how you perceived other people’s action, the impact they had on you, and how this made you feel
  6. If it is going wrong, you can regain your balance.  Don’t try to control their reaction, prepare for their response, get a future perspective (how important is this 5 min, 5 day and 5 years from now), take a break

‘Difficult Conversations’ is well written and contains great tips and examples.  If you are a leader or work a lot with people, read this book to help you prepare for your most difficult conversations.

Link to the book on Amazon

Link to the Stone & Heen website