Difficult Conversations How to Discuss What Matters Most

Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

This 10th-anniversary edition bestseller provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success. Updated to include a fascinating chapter: "Answers to Ten Questions People Ask".

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Whether we're dealing with an under-performing employee, disagreeing with our spouse about money or child-rearing, negotiating with a difficult client, or simply saying, "no," or "I'm sorry," or "I love you," we attempt to avoid difficult conversations every day. No matter how competent we are, we all have conversations that cause anxiety and frustration.

This book can help. Based on fifteen years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project, Difficult Conversations walks you through a proven step-by-step approach for how to have your toughest conversations with less stress and more success. It shows you how to prepare yourself; how to start the conversation without defensiveness; and how to keep it constructive and focused regardless of how the other person responds.


You'll learn how to:

  • Decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation
  • Interpret the significance of what is said – and what is not
  • Identify the erroneous but deeply ingrained assumptions that keep you stuck
  • Manage strong emotions – yours and theirs
  • Spot ways your self-image affects the conversation – and ways the conversation affects your self-image


Filled with examples from everyday life, Difficult Conversations will help you at home, on the job, or out in the world. It is a book you'll turn to again and again, for advice, practical skills, and reassurance.

Difficult Conversations Attributes

Author: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen
Publisher: New York, NY: Viking/Penguin, 1999