Book Report: Difficult Conversations

January 17, 2008 - Get free updates of new posts here

I read it so you don’t have to.

Background: Do you have a problem confronting your boss? Not sure how to break up with your boyfriend? Unsure of how to talk about something tough. This book talks about difficult conversations (surprise!) and how to handle them (yay!).

Take aways:

  • Sharing is caring: “I feel hurt when…” is a good way to describe to others how you feel about what they did. This is generic advice but useful in separating the problem from yourself and to improve understanding in a conversation.
  • Inquire: Don’t assume crap. Try to make sure you understand the situation before you decide things.
  • Own it! This is best advice I got from the book. You are responsible for your own actions, think of how you contributed to the problem. Don’t just go guns blazing and blame the other.
  • Switch it: Think about what the other person thinks about what you’ve done.
  • Role play: Not the kinky kind. Talk about how you are going to deal with the situation before you start.

Bottom Line:
Skim in Barns & Nobles. This book is a good read to figure out your own framework for resolving hard conversations, just sometimes easier read than done.

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5 responses to “Book Report: Difficult Conversations

  1. frank Reply

    omg yes! i totally read (half) that book as an assignment for a psyche class. i must say, i felt it was very insightful. i feel it’s a book that the reader will feel is very informative or feel that’s it’s total crap. depending how open-minded they are and their philosophy on life, i suppose. but yes… i feel there are many concepts in that book that are valuable. in most difficult conversations, we do assume a lot and altho there are many “legitimate” reasons for ppl to get angry at each other, i feel using the concepts in this book will at least decrease the chances of that happening due to miscommunication. i highly recommend. :o)

  2. Shaping Youth Reply

    Hey Noah, thanks for this, it’s been in my queue.

    Along these lines, “Choosing Civility: 25 rules of considerate conduct ” by Johns Hopkins Prof. Forni (workplace/relationship ethics/his site: was really helpful to me during my freakin’ ‘Target/NYTimes/blogosphere debacle, the ultimate ‘difficult conversation’…reframing to folks keying off visual data without READING the original context. Coulda used this one!

    ‘Civility’ reads a bit wonkish and scholarly at times, but digs deep and has some cool “aha” moments…

    I figure since he’s in the Dept. of Romance Languages/Literatures he’s gotta have some communication chops worthy of a look-see. Which reminds me, any big communication/cultural barriers in Argentina for you? Seems you’re fluent/conversant in both social & workplace comm…

  3. Bernadette Balla Reply

    First of all, why aren’t more people responding to this blog?


    Goes to show how people avoid “difficult conversations”

    What works for me is that I always approach talking to a person about other casual things BEFORE I tell them what’s troubling me.

    Why? Because people need to feel validated and not criticized. You want to start a warm conversation and not get the other person to be defensive. You want results. And you both want the conversation to end with benefits, so both of you can start understanding each other.

    Not animosity. If you talk to someone from the place of compassion and motivation, however difficult the conversation can be, it USUALLY (keyword usually) establishes a stronger relationship.

    This almost always works for me.