Tough talk

Why are the conversations that matter most sometimes the ones that are the most difficult to broach? Communication is the essential element in any professional or personal relationship. Which means you’ll sometimes need to express things that your audience won’t necessarily like, even though they need to hear them.

For some assistance, pick up a copy of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen. It will teach you how to eliminate the anxiety that surrounds most tension-filled verbal encounters. The authors draw from 15 years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project-which asserts that human interaction should be the focal point of communication-to help the reader maneuver through various types of ego-driven confrontations.

The authors use everyday examples to explain what makes conversations difficult and why we avoid them. The authors instruct the reader how to avoid common communication blunders-making assumptions about the other speaker’s intentions, for example-and move toward more enlightened conversation by getting past what seem to be accusations to understanding the feelings behind the other person’s words.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen (Viking Press, $24.95)

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