Difficult Conversations

by Stone, Patton & Heen

Difficult Conversations

How to discuss what matters most.

Click below to get this book

352 pages (paperback)

6hrs (audiobook)


Difficult conversations are a normal part of life, too bad it's a part most of us suck at.

(oops, shouldn't say that, or should I?)


So, the title kind of gives it away on this one. It's a book about difficult conversations, and more specifically about how to make them less so.

In the book, the authors explain that most difficult conversations fall in one of three categories, being:

  • The what happened conversation.
    Gone bad, this is what it looks like. "It's all their fault, I need to get them to admit blame". Not the best mindset to start the conversation
  • The feelings conversation.
    Gone bad, this is what it looks like. "My feelings are irrelevant, nobody cares, best avoid talking about them." Nobody should feel this way.
  • The identity conversation.
    Gone bad, this is what it looks like. "I am smart, I need to protect my all-or-nothing self image at any cost". Well, no way to have a productive conversation with someone with that frame of mind.

The book goes into a lot of detail explaining the ins and outs of each of the above in a very compelling way.


Another valuable resource in this book is The Difficult Conversations Checklist.

In broad lines, the checklist goes as follows:

  1. Prepare by walking through the three conversations (above)
    1. Sort out what happened
    2. Understand the emotions at play
    3. Ground your identity
  2. Check your purpose and decide whether to raise the issue or not
  3. Start from the "third story"
    1. Look for the difference between your stories
    2. Share you purposes
    3. Invite the other party to be your partner in sorting out the situation together
  4. Explore their story and your own
    1. Listen to understand, not to reply
    2. Share your own viewpoint, patiently
    3. Reframe, reframe, reframe
  5. Solve the problem
    1. Invent options that work for both parties
    2. Talk about how to keep communication open as you move forward


Our collective thoughts on this book can be summarised in one line.

The world would be a better place tomorrow if everybody read this book today. For sure.


David's thougths on Difficult Conversations

Oneliner - Fuck, I wish I'd read this book 5 years ago.


Timothy's thougths on Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations is a great hands-on book on day-to-day people skills with a focus on how to have difficult conversations (duh).

For me the book was an eye-opener and a great step-by-step guide on how to have tough conversations with less stress and more success. If you're looking to elaborate your people skills, Difficult Conversations is one of the better books out there.

It's definitely well worth the read or listen!

Amazon summary of Difficult Conversations

We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the organization that brought you Getting to Yes, Difficult Conversations provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success. you'll learn how to:

· Decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation
· Start a conversation without defensiveness
· Listen for the meaning of what is not said
· Stay balanced in the face of attacks and accusations
· Move from emotion to productive problem solving