Book review: Difficult conversations

90% of all problems and conflicts in organizations stem from what has NOT been said. NOT been talked through. From issues that should have been raised, but weren’t.

This makes the skills that allow us to adress difficult issues in constructive ways crucial job skills. And Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone Bruce Patton and Sheila Sheen is the best book I’ve seen on this subject. It is, quite simply, excellent!

The book’s main idea is this: In every conversation there are three simultaneous conversations going on:
* The “What Happened?” conversation about the factual matters at hand
* The feelings conversation concerning how we feel about this
* The identity conversation where we assert and redefine our identity

Ignoring any of these means that you’re not adressing what’s really going on in the conversation, because all of these WILL be going on. And if you’re one of those people who believe that feelings have no place in business and that professional conversations should stick purely to factual matters, let this book be your wake-up call. Humans have feelings and there is no way for us to leave them at home when we go to work. One chapter is called “Have your feelings – or they will have you”.

Reading this book is a joy. It is well planned, well written and contains many good anecdotes that underscore the book’s messages. The questions it examines are critical in any organizations:
* How to raise difficult matters
* When to raise them and when not to
* How to deal with past conversations that went wrong
* How to better express your point of view
* How to better understand others

The advice given is specific and simple to follow and has already helped me on more than one occasion. Read it!

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