How many times have you found yourself in a difficult conversation with your superior, with a colleague of yours or more simply with your spouse and friends? Learning how to turn a difficult conversation into a constructive one is key to improving the relationship with your counterpart as well as to achieving the goals and interests underpinning that relationship. This is especially important for diplomats who are confronted on a daily basis with tough negotiations. Here are some tips taken from the book “Difficult Conversations” written by Stone, Patton and Heen.
Their analysis is based on the assumption that each difficult conversation is really three conversations:
1) the “What Happened?” Conversation: most difficult conversations involve disagreement about what has happened or what should happen: instead of persuading your counterpart that you are right, explore each other’s stories since likely there are important things that each of you doesn’t know;
2) the Feelings Conversation: every difficult conversation also asks and answers questions about feelings: instead of avoiding to talk about feelings, address and acknowledge them before problem-solving;
3) the Identity Conversation: every difficult conversation threatens the identity of the parties: instead of protecting your all-or-nothing self-image (e.g.: I’m competent or incompetent, good or bad, lovable or unlovable), understand the identity issues on the line for both of you and build a more complex self-image.
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