Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


difficult conversations how to discuss what matters most

What are Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

What are difficult conversations? How to discuss what matters most is an important skill in having these challenging interactions.

When we’re faced with situations where we feel unsure about how to proceed with another person, we might need to consider having a difficult conversation. What are difficult conversations? How to discuss what matters most might be a more benign way to think about it. 

Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have conversations we anticipate with dread.

 In their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin, 2010), Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen explain that every tough conversation is made up of three different conversations: the “What happened?” conversation, the “feelings” conversation, and the “identity” conversation.

When disagreements arise, each side is likely to blame the other. But arguing about who’s to blame prevents us from finding out what actually happened. Once that’s established, it’s crucial to deal with the “feelings” conversation. Left unaddressed, negative emotions tend to deepen conflict. Acknowledging your range of complex feelings can promote mutual understanding.

The “identity” conversation is one we have with ourselves. Conflict can shake our sense of identity, causing us to question our competence and worth. It may help to think about which personal hot buttons the conflict is pushing, and consider the nuances of your self-image, recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and acknowledge your contributions to the problem.

Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

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The following items are tagged difficult conversations how to discuss what matters most:

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Posted by PON Staff & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have conversations we anticipate with dread. Gain the strategies, tools, and frameworks you need to manage difficult conversations effectively in this one-day program led by negotiation experts Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone. … Read More 

Case Study of Conflict Management: To Resolve Disputes and Manage Conflicts, Assume a Neutral 3rd Party Role

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Conflict Resolution.

In their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin Putnam, 2000), authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen tell us how to engage in the conversations in our professional or personal lives that make us uncomfortable by examining a case study of conflict management. Tough, honest conversations are critical for managers, … Read More 

Change Management: Negotiating Organizational Change in the 21st Century

Posted by Michael Phillips & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Change is vital to organizational growth, health, and survival. It is also incredibly difficult to execute well—often resulting in diminished morale and feelings of anxiety and mistrust. In fact, researchers estimate that less than half of major corporate change projects at Fortune 1000 firms have been successful. … Read More 

Hong Kong Lawyer Benny Tai Inspired by Harvard Negotiation Project Authors

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Teaching Negotiation.

The Harvard Negotiation Project was recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal by David Feith in his interview with Benny Tai, “China’s New Freedom Fighters.” Benny Tai, a 49 year old lawyer who has been branded an “enemy of the state,” founded Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a group that promotes civil disobedience in order … Read More 

Negotiation Workshop: Improving Your Negotiating Effectiveness

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Harvard Negotiation Institute, Harvard Negotiation Institute (Five-Day Programs).

Course Dates: This course is closed Too many negotiators leave value on the table. They painfully divide a small pie after a costly battle while failing to capture offsetting opportunities for joint gain, or win the battle, but at the cost to relationships and reputation that limit long-term value. Reliably negotiating optimal outcomes requires a keen … Read More 

Build strong relationships in business negotiations

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Business Negotiations.

While a student at Stanford University in the mid-2000s, Kevin Systrom met Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at gatherings on campus. Though Systrom declined Zuckerberg’s proposal that he drop out of school and take a job with Facebook, the two men kept in touch by phone in the years following. After Systrom launched photo-sharing … Read More 

Negotiating Difficult Conversations: Dealing with Tough Topics Productively

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Harvard Negotiation Institute, Harvard Negotiation Institute (Five-Day Programs).

Course Dates: This course is closed When negotiations become difficult, emotions often escalate and talks break down. To overcome barriers and turn negotiations from difficult to collaborative, from breakdown to breakthrough, you must learn to understand the inter- and intra-personal dynamics at play. In this program, you will examine how your own assumptions and behaviors can … Read More 

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Posted by PON Staff & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have conversations we anticipate with dread. Gain the strategies, tools, and frameworks you need to manage difficult conversations effectively in this one-day program led by negotiation experts Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone. … Read More 

Negotiation and Leadership: Dealing with Difficult People and Problems

Posted by PON Staff & filed under executive training, Negotiation and Leadership - Live and Online.

At Negotiation and Leadership, you will test your beliefs and assumptions, overcome emotional and rational biases, examine complex negotiation scenarios, and discover a range of competitive and cooperative negotiation strategies. In this acclaimed program, we compress 30 years of groundbreaking research into three thought-provoking days. In sessions taught by our expert faculty, you’ll broaden your … Read More