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Publisher's Summary

Everyone has difficult conversations, no matter how confident or competent they are. And too often, no matter what you try, things don't go well. Should you say what you're thinking and risk starting a fight? Swallow your views and feel like a doormat? Or should you let them have it? But...what if you're wrong?

Difficult Conversations shows you a way out of this dilemma; it teaches you how to handle even the toughest conversations more effectively and with less anxiety. Based on 15 years of work at the Harvard Negotiation Project and consultations with thousands of people, the authors answer the question: When people confront the conversations they dread the most, what works?

Difficult Conversations walks you through a proven, step-by-step approach for understanding and conducting tough conversations. It shows you how to get ready, how to start the conversations in ways that reduce defensiveness, and how to keep the conversation on a constructive track regardless of how the other person responds. Whether you're dealing with your baby-sitter or biggest client, your boss or your brother-in-law, Difficult Conversations can help.

©1999 Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (P)1999 Random House, Inc., All Rights Reserved

What members say

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  • Overall

Slow Start - Powerful book

I only listened to the first 20 minutes of this because I didn't have anything else in the car.


The authors read this, and at first they seem dry and without energy. But their content lured me in. I've learned more in four hours of listening that I have in 20 years of self-help books on active listening and communicating with people.

If you have ever struggled to have a good conversation with a spouse, child, co-worker, or boss, this is worth listening to. I am getting ready to start my second time through.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A must-hear audiobook !

This audiobook will make you understand that different people have different views on a specific situation and they all are right. Unfortunately, they come into conflict due to the fact that they can not imagine the other is "right" aswell ! I urge you to listen to this material several time in order to integrate the fact that, in a lot of situations, developing a conflict is simply inadequate due to the fact that everybody naturally and "rightly" has his own version of the story. The book provides examples of a situation as it is experienced by two people. You think that protagonist A is right, and then, the same story is exposed again, but this time from the perpective of B, and you feel yourself caught because you admit that both A and B are "right". This book makes you a bit wiser and contributes to more peacefull relations with others, colleagues, within your couple, etc. This IS important and I thank you the authors for their work !

60 of 62 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Tripled my communication effectiveness

The authors provide number of specific tips which will help you improve your communication:

- the need to understand others logic - what u say makes sense, but what others say also makes sense to them
- the 3rd-party-story technique to ease the tension
- how you can express the feelings without being emotional instead of being emotional without expressing feelings
- how different people have different perceptions -> illustrated with Harvard experiment where two groups were valuating the same company using the same data. The selling group came up with +30% figure while the buying group with -30% figure vs the fair value
- why "identity", "feelings" & "what happened" conversations are difficult
and much more...

The only reason to give 4 stars was a bit annoying/sleepy voice of one of the authors.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Steven
  • Bound Brook, NJ, USA
  • 11-07-05

Excellent content, poor naration

The ideas presented and the examples given are very useful. But the naration, particularly by one of the authors, is aweful. His voice drives me crazy and at times is hard to hear. I would be able to concentrate much more on the content if it was done right. I'm a little more than halfway through and may actually have to stop. After listening to over a dozen books, I can honestly say that the naration on this one is significantly worse than anything I have heard. So 5 stars on content, 0 on naration.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cari
  • San Antonio, TX, USA
  • 05-10-06

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Think carefully before making this selection.

For those who do not communicate well, or who do not understand the basics of communication, it is an excellent choice. You will certainly put some new tools in your belt. The authors use many examples and have some decent insight. If you have difficulties in communicating – especially if you have kids – I would recommend you listen. The program has some pretty good ideas for how to increase communication; the authors go through some role-playing in their examples; and, you might learn how to re-think the way you communicate.

For those who are at least decent communicators, you might find the ideas and examples too juvenile and the narration appropriate for kindergarteners. If you have any training or practical experience in communication, you may still find some interesting insights – if you can get over the puerile presentation. I had flashbacks to grade school. For you, this might turn out to be much longer than the 6 hours you expect. Admittedly, you may get more out of it if you go into understanding its limitations, but don’t expect any great epiphanies - they are not there. I believe the title and description are a bit misleading. It should be entitled something closer to “Basic Communication Skills: How to keep your obstinacy from overtaking your conversation.”

If in doubt, just get it (although I agree with considering the book rather than the audio). You may be pleasantly surprised. Just understand that the perceived quality of the program and your existing skill in communication will probably have an inverse relationship.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great tool but poor narration

This book is very valuable and it provides tactical help in dealing with difficult conversations in business and personal settings.
authors should try to resist the temptation to narrate their own text. Leave it to professionals please... It was slow and the dialogue sounded awkward.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dean
  • Chicago, IL, USA
  • 01-30-04

Long and rich

Just notice how so many people insist at pushing their point at a conversation hoping to get through, rather than building understanding. Is this book a how-to ? No- that you learn by trying. It will illuminate the reasons for your failures, though, so you try more effectively.

Applies as well to business as personal life. Alot of this was quite new to me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good content, extremely poor production

Bottomline: Good content. I would have given it 4-star rating if the program was professionally narrated and produced.

I find the content of the book valuable, although not ground-breaking. My assessment is that if find yourself getting into arguments with others all the time, or if you find yourself avoiding conflict all the time, then you will probably find the information given in this book helpful.

Having said that, although this title is well worth a "read", it is definitely not worth a "listen". The production of the audio program is terrible. Generally, the volume is so low that I have to set the volume of my car stereo to almost the maximum. Also, the volume varies from passage to passage, sometimes within the same passage. In addition, one of the male narrator (one of the authors) is so mono-tone that I find myself wanting to turn it off. It had been extremely frustrating to listen to.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Had an immediate impact on my conversations

I find the model of the "three conversations" to be very helpful. Just listening to this text helped me to adopt a learning stance which makes my conversations more productive. I plan to listen to this book again soon to more fully absorb the many useful ideas.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Murray, NE, USA
  • 12-16-07

Excellent Content - Subpar Audio

I became interested in this book when it was assigned as a required reading for my MBA class. This book provides very practical guidance to improve interpersonal communication in personal and professional relationships. Of all of the "communication" books I have read over the past 20 years, this is one of the top two. I highly recommend it. The only reason I did not give the audiobook 5-stars is because of the narration and production of the audiobook. There were three main narrators and the different voices and volumes were distracting. Further, in the audio production process, the volume was not leveled, and I had to change my volume to compensate.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful