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Difficult Conversations Summary

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The New York Times best-selling book, Difficult Conversations, which is grounded on fifteen years of research at Harvard Negotiation project, come up with a 10th-anniversary edition with 10 most frequent questions people ask.

Simple Short Summary: Conversation is a significant part of your day, thus, major and minor clashes can contribute to serious problems in your job, marriage, and friendships. The author calls emotionally loaded conversations as difficult conversations that people often avoid to-do because of the fear of negative outcomes or damaging relationships.

In this book, you will learn how to negotiate discussions that involve emotions.

Difficult Conversations Summary

3 min Read

In this summary, you will learn:

Lesson: A – Every difficult discussion incorporates three elements in it

Lesson: B – What is Learning conversation and how to apply it to What happened conversation?

Lesson: C – Enhance feelings conversation by finding root cause, negotiating, and communication

Lesson: A – Every difficult discussion incorporates three elements in it

Look closely, you will find out that any difficult discussions incorporate three elements in them. These are identity conversation, feeling conversation, and “what happened?” conversation.

Starting with the “What Happened?” conversation, in this type of conversation, the argument revolves around who is correct either you or your opponent.

Here, each side firmly believes that they are right while an opponent is wrong. In times like these, it is far more easy to accuse others to get your point across.

For instance, you throw away your partner’s cigarettes in the dust bin. Now instead of view this situation as your partner is helping you to quit cigarettes.

You’re blaming your partner and accusing him that he’s trying to control you. Sometimes, people go one step further and blame their partner for the things the partner never did.

In this case, she blames him the next day as she has gotten late for work because she stops to buy a cigarettes packet.

The next component is feelings conversation that deals with emotions. Conversations become difficult when emotions of anger, fear, frustration, and disappointment blend in them.

Identity conversation is the third component that talks about the character. There are times when you want to talk to people about the things that cause you problems.

However, you stop yourself as this may impact your character because others consider yourself as friendly and cooperative. Bring such issues like his dog’s constant barking wake you up all night may damage your self-image and label you as aggressive.

This kind of unbalance induces self-doubt that prevents you from resolving conflict. Now, once you recognize complex conversation elements, you will come to know the areas that need mending.

Lesson: B – What is Learning conversation and how to apply it to What happened conversation?

In the Learning conversation, both parties discuss something without arguing, blaming, fighting, and suppressing their emotions. To better understand this, let’s implement this strategy in the “What Happened?” conversation.

The first step is to find out the root source of your partner’s thoughts. Instead of telling, “How on earth can this person be so irrational?” you would say, this person views the same circumstances from a different angle.

So when you hear your partner’s perspective, you will come to know the things that you are not aware of before. This will also take your attention towards your partner’s opinion even when you disagree.

The next step is to avoid assuming that another person has evil intentions. Thus, focus on actions, not on their words. For instance, one of your friends at a get-together says that you appear tired.

Instead of concluding that your friend wants to offend you, you should calmly view the situation. Maybe, he cares for you and wishes to help you.

The last step is to stop yourself from accusing your partner and reach for a solution that’s in the favor of everyone. Remember, blaming will not solve any problems.

Moreover, it draws your attention to other judgments which stir up your negative emotions. Alternatively, have a face-to-face conversation and work through to resolve the problem.

Lesson: C – Enhance feelings conversation by finding root cause, negotiating, and communication

Sometimes, it’s tough to deal with intense emotions and even difficult to share these emotions with others. Especially when you feel, your emotion may embarrass you. Thus, you make every effort to suppress those feelings.

However, with the help of learning conversation, you can take care of your difficult emotions with ease in three simple steps. The first step is to find out the root cause of the problem, and for this, trace back your emotions.

Examining your emotional footsteps help you to understand these emotions and identify the feelings behind them. You will also grasp the dialogues you consider to share and dialogues you don’t share.

Once you know your feelings, the next step is to negotiate with those feelings. Remember, feelings depend on your perception and change frequently.

The third step is communicating your feelings with another person. Thus, share good as well as bad feelings in a kind way.

If you dump all your suppress emotions onto another, you will make the situation worse. So, to express yourself communicates both good and bad emotions equally.

What’s Next?

Crucial Conversations: What’s in it for me?

  • What Is Crucial Conversation?
  • How to forming the pool of information in conversation?
  • Tips to focus on what you want from conversation.

Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts.


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