Difficult Conversations

“Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.”

This book is gold. It tackles the conversations that we have almost daily by unpacking the elements into three separate threads – the ‘what happened’ conversation (perspective), the ‘feelings’ conversation (range of emotions) and the ‘identity’ conversation (that we have with ourselves about what the situation means to us).

Applicable to work, personal situations and pretty much anyone, it looks at conversations around letting people go at work, telling your boss that you’re leaving your job, breaking up, the smallest issues like who does the dishes to the bigger ones of parenting or even sticky topics with one’s own parents. 

We often feel like emotions need to be left out of a conversation because they’re unprofessional or irrelevant. The book insists that emotions are at the very heart of our conversations and therefore need to be laid out in a productive manner in order to be heard, to listen, and to find a way to move forward together. 

We begin a conversation motivated by selfish reasons and believing that we are correct. We want to get the other person to accept that our perspective is the best. Starting with our story puts the other person on the defensive and threatens their self-image. This book leads us beyond that by using the ‘and stance.’ So, stating that you may be hurt and angry – and also – the other person feels attacked and offended. It’s not about which person is right; it’s about acknowledging both sides. 

This takes work and attention. Judgement and defensiveness will creep in. Mistakes will be made. Taking that into account and continuing to be open to responses can turn each conversation into a learning one. 

Everyone should read this!

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