Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen presents what I consider the clearest and most practical principles on how to resolve conflict, whether it be in business, social, or intimate relationships. The book comes out of The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, a university consortium dedicated to developing the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution.

The authors note that there are in fact three conversations going on when people discuss what matters most:
  1. The What's Happening Conversation – where issues of fact, values, points of view, intentions, blame come into play. They point out three traps to avoid: The Truth Trap, The Blame Game, and The Intention Invention. To counter these and be more effective in communication, the authors recommend exploring each others story with curiosity, identifying how each contributes to the conflict, and focusing on impact instead of intentions.
  2. The Feelings Conversation – where deeper emotions lurk underneath but are rarely identified, and often acted out, sometimes denied.
  3. The Identity Conversation – where issues of rejection, abandonment, and inadequacy, to name a few, are often triggered, where an individual feels threatened or judged as bad, unacceptable, worthless. This conversation often fuels the most entrenched, and escalated conflicts.
This is one of the most helpful books I've ever read and I recommend it to my clients all the time.

No comments: