Book Notes – Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

My Notes:

Be curious…don’t try to convince them to do what you want.
Try to figure out why they are acting how they are and what their feelings are.
Paraphrase your understanding of their story back to them
Reframe an accusation as an emotion from them (“you attacked me” = “they felt attacked”)
And acknowledge it.

I have a problem and I need your help in fixing it.

p. 233 – A Difficult Conversations Checklist

STEP 1: Prepare by walking through the 3 conversations

1) Sort out What Happened
– Where does your story come from (information, past experiences, rules)? Theirs?
– What impact has this situation had on you? What might their intentions have been?
– What have you EACH contributed to the problem?

2) Understand Emotions
– Explore your emotional footprint, and the bundle of emotions you experience.

3) Ground your Identity
– What’s at stake for you *about you*?
What do you need to accept to be better grounded?

STEP 2: Check your purposes and decide whether to raise the issue

1) Purposes
– What do you hope to accomplish by having this conversation?
– Shift your stance to support learning, sharing, and problem-solving.

2) Deciding
– Is this the best way to address the issue and achieve your purpose?
– Is the issue really embedded in your Identity Conversation?
– Can you affect the problem by changing your contributions to it?
– If you don’t raise it, what can you do to help yourself let it go?

STEP 3: Start from the Third Story

1) Describe the problem as the difference between your stories.
Include both viewpoints as a legitimate part of the discussion.

2) Share your purposes. What you are trying to accomplish.

3) Invite them to join you as a *partner* in sorting out the situation together.

STEP 4: Explore their story and yours

– Listen to understand their perspective on what happened.
Ask questions (real questions, not leading or sarcastic).
Acknowledge the feelings behind the arguments and accusations.
Paraphrase to see if you’ve got it.
Try to unravel how the two of you got to this place.

– Share your own viewpoint, your past experiences, intentions, feelings.

– Reframe, reframe, reframe to keep on track.
From truth to perception (It is vs. I think)
From blame to contribution (Your fault to what happened)
From accusations to feelings (You did to I felt)
And so on.

STEP 5: Problem-solving

– Invent options that meet each side’s most important concerns and interests.

– Look to standards for what *should* happen.
Keep in mind the standard of mutual caretaking; relationships that always go one way rarely last.

– Talk about how to keep communication open as you go forward.


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