Difficult Conversations – Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

“Why? Because good listening requires an open and honest curiosity about the other person, and a willingness and ability to keep the spotlight on them. Buried emotions draw the spotlight back to us. Instead of wondering -How does what they are saying make sense?-“

This books is a very pleasantly written quasi how-to manual on how to handle well, difficult conversations. Filled with very practical tools and advice, I was able to implement what I got from the readings right away, and I must say, it worked for me.

The most interesting thing about this book to me was the idea that no one has the objective truth on an event or situation, but rather, that we all have a unique perspective. So, when we’re going to engage in a difficult conversation with someone, it is very important to try to understand the other’s perspective, since it will certainly have things you never could have seen from where you stood. Imagine two people entering the same room from different doors, taking a glance at the room, and walking away; they wouldn’t experience the same room.

The other very useful advice was to disentangle intent from impact. We often get caught up in ‘righting’ our intentions, when we should be asking for forgiveness for the impact we caused. To realize we might have done harm, even if it was not our intention, is one of the hardest things to realize and be sorry for. However, it is very important since when we hurt someone’s feelings, probably the last thing they want to hear about is how we weren’t intending to.

The book concludes in what they call The Learning Conversation. A conversation in which the participants let go of their assumptions and honestly seek to understand what is and to understand each other. If we change our minds from trying to win an argument to trying to understand the other, we will relieve stress from our difficult conversations and even go to creating strong and genuine relationship with others.

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