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Difficult Conversations Summary – June 2022

Author: Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen

Short Summary
Difficult Conversations (1999) is a book by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen. This book sheds light on the most important things that need to be discussed in any relationship and what are the best ways to handle such conversations.
difficult conversations summary
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

Difficult Conversations is a guide to improving the quality of your conversations and ultimately your relationships. It will teach you that running from hard conversations can be damaging for your relationships in long term. If you are having a hard conversation chances are the situation will only turn towards something better. Explore each other’s stories instead of focusing on yours, Separate the intent of their actions from the impact you can never know someone’s intentions, and do not focus on blame it will not resolve anything.

While having a hard conversation you should look at it as something you and the other person want to learn from. It is not an argument to be won. It is a situation that needs resolution. Remember that giving the other person enough respect to listen to them attentively goes a long way. Avoid blaming and putting forth statements that can hurt the other person. Express yourself without disrespecting them and make them feel heard and understood. Try to look at multiple ways that can lead to a solution instead of thinking about how you will get what you want. The goal of having hard conversations is to find a common meeting point with understanding and respect. You are there to learn not to persuade.

Difficult Conversations Summary Key Points

You Cannot Run Away from Difficult Conversations Forever

If you are holding off a conversation with your partner about how their sleep schedule bothers you out of courtesy it might be the time to have the conversation. You are probably avoiding an argument or not discussing the matter with them because you do not want to hurt their feelings in any way. But look at this issue this way. You are missing quality time together. Just because you wake up and go to bed at different times you miss breakfast together. One of you might be doing extra chores, the house may be disordered and most of all you would be missing each other’s company or just the fact that you want to talk about your day with them. This conversation might be a hard one to have but remind yourself why is it necessary.

Remember hard conversations consist of feelings, blame, and identity. You cannot run away from them but there are chances that if you face hard and difficult conversations something good will come out.

One Difficult Conversation has Three Types of Conversations Embedded in it

During a difficult conversation, whether it is related to your personal life or your professional life several things are going on. The authors’ identity is how three different elements are part of a single difficult conversation. The first one is the ‘what happened conversation’ in this we are weighing down the blame. In my opinion, you might be responsible for something that happened and you are the only one that needs to be blamed. In your opinion, there might be chances that we both have to be blamed for something that happened. This way, what happens in conversations is often subjective and may be faulty.

The second element in our difficult conversation is ‘feeling conversation’ which identifies your feelings and the feelings of the other person. Whether you feel hurt, disrespected, or ignored these feelings matter and would stir up when you have hard conversations.

The third and final element is the ‘Identify Conversation’ As humans, we feel threatened and hate the feeling that someone is trying to paint us differently. Sometimes we avoid difficult conversations because we do not want to threaten our self-image. For example, you might feel that your partner thinks you as self-centered or non-accommodating if you have that conversation about a difference in your sleep schedule and this may cause you to postpone the confrontation. Reminder: do not do that!

Introduce a third Story, Listen, and then Express yourself

Most of the time when you start a conversation you describe your version of what has happened. How it made you feel. What do you think about it? The authors advise you to do otherwise. Introduce a third story that is neutral and as you open the conversation be mindful of their identity.

Gradually, invite them towards solving the problem and reaching a mutual conclusion. Do not threaten their identity or disregard their feelings. Keep things neutral. Give them the time to gather their thoughts and allow them to speak. Do not cross-examine and avoid questions that are more like statements that tend to be harsh. After they have spoken start by expressing yourself. Do not use terms such as “You always do this” or “You never care.”

Know that your feelings are important too and they deserve to be heard. Cut the negative talk and the urge to blame. In this way, you will allow them to express themselves while expressing themselves and staying respectful of their image and feelings.

Difficult Conversations Quotes

“People almost never change without first feeling understood.” –Douglas Stone

“Working to keep negative information out during a difficult conversation is like trying to swim without getting wet.” –Douglas Stone

Difficult Conversations Summary Review

Difficult Conversations is an amazing book that should be read by everyone in my opinion. It is well written with plenty of advice from real-life situations so that you can relate to, understand, and resolve difficult conversations. If you apply the principles in the summary of the Difficult conversations in your real life you will be saving yourself from plenty of long-term problems.

To Whom I Would Recommend Difficult Conversations Summary

  • The thirty-two-year-old caretaker wants to understand her employees better.
  • To the sixteen-year-old student who is about to step into college and will need to communicate with plenty of people daily.
  • And lastly, to everyone who wants to make his/her life meaningful and easy.

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