Book Review: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen, and Bruce Patton. I carried this book in my briefcase for years, taking it out to read a snippet or two while waiting somewhere. It’s the kind of book that’s life-changing, especially for a solopreneur, emloyedpreneur or online business specialist who dreads confrontation.This book teaches you how to have tough conversations with your best clients and come out with an improved relationship on the other side.
Dealing with clients you disagree with is hard because you don’t share their view. You’re at odds. Obvious, right? What Difficult Conversations does is offer you tools to look past your first (typically emotional) response, challenge your assumptions of being right and resist the natural desire to lay blame. And of course, tools to find workable solutions.
Not your typical business read, Difficult Conversations uses an entertaining approach to deliver real knowledge. The many stories diagram what happens when you attempt to have that awkward conversation then gives a step-by-step approach for framing the conversation and making it more productive for you.
Let me give you an example. When a client is late with a final payment, your thoughts probably go something like this- what did I do wrong? They didn’t like it. Uh oh, they’re trying to stiff me!
Your mind begins to invent all kinds of reasons for that missed payment. Somehow, the reasons are rarely positive or balanced. One of the best sections in the book walks you through how to get a more balanced perspective so you can move past fears or emotions.
You learn how to handle your negative feelings while inquiring about your client’s true intentions and goals so there’s a better chance of getting a great result. At a time when the average independent worker loses about $6k a year to non-payment this is valuable skill to learn! Best part is that even someone who is shy or conflict-averse can benefit from the book.
When I was a training partner of a Harvard associated consulting firm I taught this material as coursework. I saw how corporate giants translated the ideas and tools into real impact to their bottom line-fewer errors, delays and happier clients, better products and more savings.
Being skilled to do that kind of creative problem-solving is even more important when you’re a company of one. If you’re worrying about a difficult conversation coming up or recently had one, reading Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most should be on your must-read list.