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[Book] _Difficult Conversations_

I don't remember exactly how I decided to pick up this book, but a while back, I also read Getting to Yes and found it really useful for reframing how I approach negotiations. So I had to figure that Difficult Conversations (also a product of the Harvard Negotiation Project) would have at least a few insights to offer on dealing with life's challenges.

And it did. Reading it was an interesting experience, though, because I wouldn't say it was exactly pleasant to read. It felt more like a chore. But I do think it was carefully and thoughtfully written, so I'm not sure there's a way to improve that aspect of the book.

Regardless - I found myself wanting to write a summary of the major aspects/insights from the book. The text itself feels long because it includes a lot of extensive illustrative examples. The examples are useful, but draw things out. So, here are my notes to myself:

“There’s no such thing as a diplomatic hand grenade.”

Three conversations wrapped into difficult conversations:
1. “What happened?”
2. Feelings - leak in whether we want them to or not - human urge to express and desire to be heard
3. The identity conversation: What does this say about me? Difficult conversations threaten our identity.

Try to move towards a learning stance:
1. Instead of trying to determine truth or who is right, explore each others’ stories and talk about contributions to what happened
Move from certainty to curiosity: What’s your story?
Embrace the “and” stance
Disentangle impact from intent
Our assumptions about intentions are often wrong
Good intentions don’t sanitize bad impact. Also, intentions are usually complex.
Map the contribution system: Understanding to enable you to move forward (vs. blame)
2. Feelings are normal, natural, usually complex, and if unexpressed, can interfere with listening and communication
Important to acknowledge
3. Three core identities:
-Am I competent?
-Am I a good person?
-Am I worthy of love?
Vulnerable identities: all-or-nothing syndrome, denial, exaggeration
Become aware of your identity issues, complexify your identity, and accept that you’ll make mistakes, have complex intentions, and have contributed to the problem

Purposes that work:
-Learning their story
-Expressing your views and feelings
-Problem-solving together

Key elements:
Listening - transforms conversations
Stance of curiosity
Skills: inquiry, paraphrasing, acknowledgment

“Failure to express yourself keeps you out of the relationship”

Don’t make your story overly simplistic

“We are all thousand-watt souls with forty-watt bulbs.”

Our differences are what gives spice to relationships

If you are in a position of power, be clear about whether you are commanding, consulting, collaborating/negotiating, or delegating.


Interestingly, I had an opportunity to put some of these insights to use immediately after I finished reading the book. Things did not go entirely as intended with our AirBnB arrangement during the conference in Denver, due to multiple kinds of communication breakdowns and mistakes, including on my part. I was grateful to have the perspective from the book to rely on, in trying to think over what happened, how I contributed, and what would be helpful to do in order to learn and also be able to move on.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1187923.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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