After a busy and rewarding winter semester, our team was eager to dive back into our book club. With a recommendation from Sanger’s new faculty director, Lindy Greer, we decided to read Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. 

This book was a favorite for many team members because of its simplistic and practical approach. Not only are the tips and suggestions provided by the authors applicable to a professional setting, but they are also extremely relevant to personal relationships. Our top takeaways are below.

1. Get curious
Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. In any disagreement, it’s easy to think the other person is the problem, when in reality, the problem is that the stories we tell about a shared experience are different. Readers are encouraged to understand the other side of a story by adopting the “And Stance.” Adopting the “And Stance” requires accepting both sides of a story, which is often hard to do. It means accepting that we feel hurt while also accepting that the other person didn’t intend to hurt us. This acceptance allows us to recognize the differences in how people see and feel situations. Once both stories are on the table and accepted, a next step forward becomes easier to tackle.

2. Identify the Third Story
The third story is the story told by an observer. In an argument between friends, the third story would be told by a mutual friend who sees the concerns of both individuals as valid. Identifying the third story is helpful in getting both parties to agree on the gap or difference in each other’s stories. Identifying the difference helps each individual’s concerns or frustrations feel validated, and a willingness to work towards a solution increases.

3. Reframe
In most disagreements, both parties have contributed to the problem in some way. Reframing helps shift blame to contribution. For example, if your coworkers tell you that they’re right and you’re wrong, you can reframe by replying that you understand they feel very strongly about the situation and that you would like to hear their perspective while also sharing yours. Consistently reframing when necessary keeps a conversation productive.

For our next book club, we’ll be discussing Dolly Chugh’s The Person You Mean to Be

Difficult Conversations book coverDifficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.

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