Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Version: Abridged
Author: Douglas Stone
Narrator: Douglas Stone
Genres: Business & Economics, Self Development
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: April 1999
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
Tell Your Friends:


Dealing with your ex-husband, who can't seem to show up reliably for weekends with the kids; navigating a workplace fraught with office politics or racial tensions; saying "I'm sorry" or "I love you".

We all have difficult conversations, no matter how confident or competent we are. And too often, no matter what we try, things don't go well. Should you say what you're thinking and risk starting a fight? Swallow your views and feel like a doormat? Or should you let them have it? But--what if you're wrong?

Difficult Conversations shows you a way out of this dilemma; it teaches you how to handle even the toughest conversations more effectively and with less anxiety. Based on fifteen years of work at Harvard Negotiation Project and consultations with thousands of people, the authors answer the question: When people confront the conversations they dread the most, what works?

Difficult Conversations walks you through a proven, concrete, step-by-step approach for understanding and conducting tough conversations. It shows you how to get ready, how to start the conversations in ways that reduce defensiveness, and how to keep the conversation on a constructive track regardless of how the other person responds.

Whether you're dealing with your baby-sitter or biggest client, your boss or your brother-in-law, Difficult Conversations can help.

Reviews (9)

Difficult Conversations Review

Written by Duke on July 3rd, 2008

  • Book Rating: 2/5

I can see where some people who may be REALLY timid and shy might get some help from this book. For the average person, I wouldn't consider it much of a resource. Had a lot of psycho-babble and took five disks to say what could have been said in one. Not to mention that the play acting examples were unrealistic in terms of the script and the actors were amateurish at best. I think they were the writers (note to future writers: when your book goes to audio, drop your ego and hire a professional to read it). I suspect there must be much better books on this subject out there. If anyone has any suggestions, please post them here.

Difficult Conversations

Written by Shannon Brakefield on August 3rd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 1/5

Wow! The readers made this book pathetic...but I guess with the material they had to work with it would be pathetic. This is one of the most boring books I've ever read/heard and if these are difficult conversations to deal with (the examples) then the person that wrote this book has led a sheltered life. All you real people please step forward and write a book. Afterall, this book proves that anyone can write a ridiculous book. This book helps me to understand why people ask me to write books all too often. We are desperate for real people and real difficult situations not what this book says are difficult conversations! If you want to have difficult conversations talk to people in a different study group next time. The author has no idea what difficult conversations are!

Good Advice

Written by Anonymous on May 10th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This is an excellent book for understanding communication and miscommunication. It offered good examples of challenging situations from everyday life, offered ideas of how to deal with them, and did not try to gloss over the difficulties. It gave practical and very helpful advice, providing insight into the various perspectives involved when trying to communicate.

Difficult conversations

Written by Anonymous on February 2nd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Probably one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard. Listened to this set TWICE, and will go back to it for reference in the future. Incredibly insightful analysis of the structure of conversations and useful strategies for managing productive dialogue. A must for people who have trouble communicating or managers who need to understand their staff more.

Difficult conversations

Written by Anonymous on July 20th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 3/5

3 speakers breaks it up nicely. Although you need to split up listening to it into digestable chunks otherwise you'll wonder off - the content is a bit dry. Well worth it if you are going to 'have it out' with your Boss!!

Difficult Conversations

Written by David on June 10th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 3/5

This book was a little dull for the first three CDs. I am glad that I continued because four and five were pretty good. When I was about half done listening to the book, I had a difficult conversation with my wife and I was able to use some of the tips.

Difficult Converstions

Written by Anonymous on April 25th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This is one of the better books on this subject. The book did not use the usual "run of the mill" examples of difficult conversations. I highly recommend it.

Difficult Conversations

Written by Chet Herman on December 12th, 2004

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Useful and worth listenting too. Authors read the work, and the principles offered are immediately applicable to your own real world conversations. Production is simple and flows nicely.

Difficult Conversations

Written by Anonymous on August 16th, 2004

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Excellent book. I listened to it several times then bought the book for reference. I even bought copies for friends. This material is useful for any human who needs to interact with people in any context!

Author Details

Author Details

Patton, Bruce

"Bruce Patton is a founder and director of Vantage Partners. He is also Deputy Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, which he co-founded with Professor Roger Fisher and William Ury in 1979.

Bruce has extensive experience in corporate, labor-management, and international contexts. His work focuses on relationship management in alliance, outsourcing, and merger contexts; managing internal executive teams or cross-matrix conflict; and on negotiation advice and capacity building. He has worked globally with some of the world's best-known corporations, including Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Boeing, I.B.M., J.P. Morgan, and Unocal. In addition to his work in the accounting, banking, energy, and legal sectors, Patton has extensive experience in the high-tech, IT, and telecom areas. He has helped launch alliances, save and implement mergers, repair outsourcing relationships, renegotiate supplier relationships, implement restructured supplier management systems, coach executive teams, and build systems to support coordinated, high-quality, company-wide approaches to the management of key negotiations and relationships.

In addition to his work at Vantage Partners, Bruce is a founder and Board member emeritus of the nonprofit Conflict Management Group. From 1985-1999, he was the Thaddeus R. Beal Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, where he taught the pioneering Negotiation Workshop and related courses. He continues to teach regularly in Harvard's executive education programs. His work in the public sector includes training the white Cabinet and African National Congress Negotiating Committee in South Africa before the constitutional talks that ended apartheid, mediating at the behest of the U.S. and Iran in the 1980 hostage conflict, working with President Oscar Arias on the Esquipulas II Central American peace agreement, and enabling the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union to negotiate several contracts for educational reform.

Mr. Patton is co-author with Roger Fisher and William Ury of Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (2nd Ed., Penguin, 1991), which has sold more than 3 million copies and been translated into 23 languages. Most recently he co-authored (with Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen) Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Viking/Penguin, 1999), a New York Times Business Bestseller.

Mr. Patton received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1977 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984."

Heen, Sheila

Heen teaches at the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project.