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in: Communication, Podcast, Relationships & Family, Social Skills

November 11, 2019 Last updated: November 29, 2019

Podcast #559: How to Handle Difficult Conversations

Asking for a raise. Disagreeing with your boss. Telling your neighbor that their dog’s barking is bothering you. Talking about money with your spouse. Debating politics with a friend. These are all difficult conversations fraught with anxiety, anger, and awkwardness. Many people just avoid them, but my guest says that with the right framework, you can handle even the most pitfall-laden exchanges. Her name is Sheila Heen, she’s spent twenty years developing negotiation theory and practice as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and she’s one of the co-authors of the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Sheila starts things off by sharing the most common difficult conversations people encounter professionally and personally and the most common unhelpful ways people deal with them. She then explains how every difficult conversation actually has three hidden conversations going on, how people confuse the impact of what others say and do with their intentions, how you can acknowledge your contribution to a problem without assuming the blame, how to share your emotions without being emotional, and how to generally move a conversation from being about combative confrontation, to being about exploring each other’s stories. 

Show Highlights

  • The most common types of difficult conversations
  • The ways we deal with difficult conversations that lead to more problems
  • Why unknown contexts and background info can hamper our point of view 
  • The 3 convos happening below the surface in the midst of any difficult conversation 
  • How to get a better of what’s really going on in any uncomfortable talk 
  • Disentangling intent from impact 
  • Figuring out the “third story” — not our own and not the other party’s 
  • How to talk about feelings in the midst of any difficult conversation
  • How does our identity (or how we see our identity) play into how we conduct these conversations?
  • Are there instances where information should be withheld?
  • What to do when honesty and niceties in conversation aren’t reciprocated 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Sheila Heen difficult conversations book cover

Connect With Sheila 

TriadLearning.com

Sheila’s website

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