How to Have Impossible Conversations

A Very Practical Guide
Narrated by: Peter Boghossian
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (671 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"This is a self-help book on how to argue effectively, conciliate, and gently persuade. The authors admit to getting it wrong in their own past conversations. One by one, I recognize the same mistakes in me. The world would be a better place if everyone read this book." (Richard Dawkins, author of Science in the Soul and Outgrowing God)

In our current political climate, it seems impossible to have a reasonable conversation with anyone who has a different opinion. Whether you're online, in a classroom, an office, a town hall - or just hoping to get through a family dinner with a stubborn relative - dialogue shuts down when perspectives clash. Heated debates often lead to insults and shaming, blocking any possibility of productive discourse. Everyone seems to be on a hair trigger.

In How to Have Impossible Conversations, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay guide you through the straightforward, practical, conversational techniques necessary for every successful conversation - whether the issue is climate change, religious faith, gender identity, race, poverty, immigration, or gun control. Boghossian and Lindsay teach the subtle art of instilling doubts and opening minds. They cover everything from learning the fundamentals for good conversations to achieving expert-level techniques to deal with hardliners and extremists. This book is the manual everyone needs to foster a climate of civility, connection, and empathy.

©2019 Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"In the course of my work over the past quarter century I have been having impossible conversations with Holocaust deniers, creationists, anti-vaccination advocates, 9/11 Truthers, chemtrail conspiracy theorists, believers in astrology and ESP, proponents of alternative medicine, religious fundamentalists of many faiths, and dozens more people with whom I disagree vehemently. I've gotten pretty good at it but I had no idea what I was doing until I read How to Have Impossible Conversations, a sterling compendium of the most effective techniques of communication. I wish I'd had this important book at the start of my career as I would have saved myself many a fruitless dialogue. This book is the start of healing our contentious and divided age." (Michael Shermer, publisher Skeptic magazine, Presidential Fellow Chapman University, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth, and for 18 years a monthly columnist for Scientific American)

"This fascinating book provides not only useful instruction on how to talk with someone who thinks differently, it also offers a powerful method of questioning and reducing confidence in unsubstantiated beliefs to help people think about what is true." (Helen Pluckrose, editor, Areo Magazine)

"I thought I knew all I needed to know about conversations and arguments. I was wrong. I just knew a lot about debates and rows. In their insightful and highly readable new book, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay offer all kinds of ingenious pathways to constructive dialogue. At a time when public discourse has degenerated into mud-slinging and when campuses favour every kind of diversity except viewpoint diversity, this is an invaluable contribution. I guarantee that reading it will make you more - much more - persuasive." (Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford)

What listeners say about How to Have Impossible Conversations

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Important Skills Spoiled By Author Opinions

The important skills are presented in a clear, easy to understand format. Unfortunately the author inserts his political opinions throughout the book, which makes the book far harder to listen to. I wish the author had taken his own advice and stuck the the solid rules he lays out for the reader instead.

231 people found this helpful

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Good Read

I would suggest this to anyone who has been having a difficult time having conversations with people with different views. I learned that I have not been listening and trying to throw facts at people. This is where I plan to start in my practice of having good conversations. Thank you for writing this book. I'm sure I will re-read it.

43 people found this helpful

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No other book will be as relevant after COVID-19

I mean it. The conversations we are going to have, we MUST have, are going to be rather difficult. Peter and James are 'godsend' because they have given us a guide to make the most of these conversations. In a world after COVID-19, the world will talk . . . a lot. The question is, are we going to have impossible conversations and do something about them, or not? I would put all my money betting that, if we all read How To Have Impossible Conversations, we most certainly will. PS - Peter offers an Easter Egg in the afterword. (It's worth it!).

35 people found this helpful

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Great way to keep friends in tough conversations

Also great deescalation techniques. Should be required reading for any new business or relationship, awesome

23 people found this helpful

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It's jammed with helpful information

This book is extremely helpful, but it moves pretty fast. A course with study material, tests and labs could be developed from the knowledge contained within it - but only taught by instructors that have mastered the material and demonstrated high levels of proficiency in it. These conversational techniques should be taught along with logic in all schools in my opinion.

15 people found this helpful

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amazing book

I thought I was decent at conversation until I read this book it changed my life

14 people found this helpful

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Fast Speaker

The person who was narrating the book spoke too fast at times. I think this book would be better read in person.

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Excellent book!! So much to take in and ponder on.

This is awesome book. It will be on my short rotation list to listen to again after I reflect on the contents. So much to take in and ponder on.

12 people found this helpful

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The listener should expect more!

How to Have Impossible Conversations is disappointing because it promises so much and delivers so little. I purchased it because (1) i have a requirement that I place on myself that at least 10% of the sudiobooks I listen to will be non-fiction and (2) it was a $3.95 (the price of a good cup of coffee) Audible Daily Deal. The techniques that the authors say one should practice and drill are for the most part common sense. They also do not work when a conservative is seeking to exchange political views with a progressive because almost all progressives are unwilling to even talk with a conservative for fear it might changes their minds causing them isolation from other progressives. Chapter 7, just before the end of the book, is a cursory discussion of concepts from Jonathan Haidt's excellent 2012 social psychology book The Righteous Mind. If listeners to the pablum of How to Have Impossible Conversations find themselves ordering Haidt's book that the meager offerings will be worthwhile. What makes audiobooks a great medium is the quality of narration and thankfully there are many outstanding narrators. The authors would have done well to hire a professional narrator because Professor Boghossian stinks at it. I would apologize if I seem sarcastic but it's the book's fault! Now let's get back to some good fiction.

11 people found this helpful

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prerequisite to civility

this book should be reading material for people of all backgrounds. in the age of Twitter president and cancel culture, it is of utmost importance to relearn the art of enjoying a conversation, no matter how much of difference of opinion exists.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Ricky
  • 10-09-19

Succinct, As practical as advertised & Effective

A candidate for my answer to: 'If you could wave a magic wand and make everyone have read one book what would it be?'. This book provides an education in an essential meta-tool by which so many other problem could be mitigated, the endangered art of meaningful conversation.

3 people found this helpful

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  • chris kirkland
  • 09-23-19

Recommended for anyone planning on having a conversation

A great listen, and presumably also a great read. Handy for both impossible and possible conversations.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 11-15-19

How to moderate your thoughts and speech

While this book gave me lots of food for thought, and contains interesting insights, research and ideas; it is a book about becoming more centrist/sounding more moderate, it is not a book that will help you converse about genuinely difficult or oppressive circumstances.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Garfield Braithwaite
  • 09-07-20

Don't bother reading this rubbish

Smug, manipulative and trite: the trifecta of tedium. These two frauds dress platitudes up as epigrams, throw in some academic references and hey presto they've written a book. Having waded through this trivial drivel, i was left irritated and disappointed in equal measure. i gave the story 1 star just to show that i had not overlooked this part of the process. Don't bother reading this dross it was execrable

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  • Tjjmaxd
  • 12-22-19

Statement of the obvious

I really hoped this book would teach you how to have those awkward conversations where you had to push past your anxiety and tell someone something that might’ve been hard to hear or something along those lines, ie a difficult conversation. Instead it just focuses on a non-conflictual form of communication which reduces real verbal conflict to a minimum. Great for those who wish to appear meek. A grand tour in how to not say anything too pertinent that might offend. Backed up by science and years of research. Statement of the blooming obvious.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. J. Rayner
  • 11-28-19

Great

This is a really great book. I've read several like it recently, but this is one of the best. Some really good tips about the structure of conversations in regards to difficult topics plus much more about daily interaction.

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  • Algeron
  • 10-01-20

Buy the book, not the audiobook

The narration confused the hell out of me. For a book that relies mainly on dialogue to get the point across, I think it was a terrible decision to have it read aloud by one speaker who includes the names of the characters as if read by an artificial intelligence that doesn't understand what it's doing. Real shame, because there's a lot of complexity and intricacy that gets lost. Caviar drenched in ketchup.

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  • Mohani
  • 08-08-20

Dry at times

Started off well. Very useful techniques but delivered in a dry manner at times. Could have held my attention if role play with another person instead of scripted methods. Your biases against Christianity came through and pointing to your modernist roots. Not sure I appreciated your examples when using Christianity.

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  • Pepper82
  • 07-29-20

A worthwhile summary

Given both the authors’ backgrounds I would have thought more specific subject matters would have been raised and tackled; however, as a general tool for negotiation and conversation I still found some relatable pieces that I could use and, hopefully. master. Thankfully it’s not a long book, and I think the authors are to be commended for getting to the points and techniques faster, rather than labouring unnecessarily.

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  • Paul
  • 07-10-20

Outstanding read

a real survival manual for the challenges we face when working with people with different points of view to us. this is done is a positive way, rather than descending into a bitter argument.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-22-19

Fantastic, very informative. Chapter four really

helped me understand why I do struggle with conversations. Excellent listening for everyone, thanks.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Josué Avila
  • 03-12-20

A SIMPLE GUIDE OF USUAL CONVERSATIONS

Not a good reference book, doesn't worth the investment. Basically he just have usual conversations.