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Practice “Putting It All Together”

Most of chapter 12, “Putting it all together,” is an extended example of someone being coached through a difficult conversation. The coaching session illustrates a general template for a difficult conversation, which includes five steps: Preparing by walking through the three conversations, listing what stories are likely to be told, what impacts and intentions seem […]

Finally, Problem-Solving

[Notes on Chapter 11: “Problem-Solving: Take the Lead”] Some of our conversation partners will have learned all these tools for making difficult conversations easier, but most won’t have. That means we’ll be having lots of conversations with people who don’t know about the three conversations, present their conclusions as fact, try to keep their feelings […]

Speaking for Yourself

[Notes on Chapter 10: “Expression: Speak for Yourself with Clarity and Power”] In our effort to make the difficult conversation into a learning conversation, we will have “begun from the Third Story” and “listened from the inside out.” Eventually, however, we’ll need to speak for ourselves. Main points about self-expression are these: The first point […]


[Notes on Chapter 9: “Listen from the inside out“] Listening well is a key to successful communication in all situations, but especially in difficult conversations.  What people want more than just about anything in a conversation (especially a difficult one), is to have their feelings heard, and that people care enough to listen to them. […]

Beginning From the Third Story

[Notes on Chapter 8:  “Getting started—Begin from the Third Story“] Approaching a difficult conversation, it is natural to begin by telling one’s own side of the story; after all, it is what we have the most access to. Doing so however almost inevitably engenders defensiveness and resistance from the other party, as their story is, […]

What Is Your Purpose?

[Notes on Chapter 7: What’s Your Purpose? When to Raise It and When to Let Go] While often there are significant advantages to pursuing difficult conversations, one must make an actual decision and commitment to do so. And there may be reasons why one may choose in some instances not to pursue resolution in what […]

The Identity Conversation

Here’s a summary of chapter 6, “Ground Your Identity: Ask Yourself What’s at Stake“: The third conversation that is always going on during a difficult conversation – or any conversation, actually – is “the identity conversation.” That conversation seems most often to be taking place in our own heads, and is a conversation we carry […]

The Feelings Conversation

The authors of Difficult Conversations note that in order to navigate difficult conversations, one must understand that these are not all about reaching an agreement on “What happened” that created the difficult conversation in the first place, although that is the obvious place to go for most people most of the time.  There are other […]

“What Happened” – Intentions & Impacts

Part of addressing the “what happened” aspect of a difficult conversation is distinguishing between intent and impact. Two things are particularly important here: Don’t assume bad intentions – This is very much like Brené Brown’s rule to be generous in your assumptions about others. Just because someone said something that hurt you doesn’t mean their […]

Introduction – The Three Conversations

Are you starting to get sick of being home all the time? Are you missing all the “normal” things that filled your weeks before the virus swept in and changed our way of living? We are too! So we thought maybe we shouldn’t wait until all this is over to dive into our second book […]

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Cover image: “Squirrel on picnic table” by James Petts from London, England / CC BY-SA