Adrian Stobbe

Difficult Conversations - Bruce Patton et al

6 minutes (1465 words)
Table of contents

🔗 Link : Goodreads

⭐️ Rating: 9

🔗🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

Difficult conversations are about listening and acknowledging feelings.

We are often blind or not courageous enough to communicate our own conditions.

Don’t swallow strong emotions, tell if you can’t listen right now.

🔗How I Discovered It

recommendation by Axel

🔗☘️ How the Book Changed Me

How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

I embrace difficult conversations as a chance for positive change rather than a dreadful thing to avoid.

I’ve become more critical to think of my own contribution. Even subtle things such as being avoidant or unapproachable count. My intentions are not always pure and I want to avoid framing things always in a good light for me. I want to admit when I act selfishly.

🔗👷🏼 What do I want to apply to my life?

Be more descriptive about feelings. Good and bad, sad and happy are too constrained.

Be more confronting while being aware of potential losses. I want to risk losing more to gain more upside.

Think of how a problem attacks my identity. Include it in the conversation.

Persuade by learning. I want to gain understanding and explore solutions together rather than trying to make the other agree with me. Rather try to find out what the other disagrees with.

🔗📒 Summary + Notes

3 conversation types

  1. What happened: explore their story. Share impact on you and interpretation. How did both contribute to the problem?
  2. Feeling: what to do with my / their emotions?
  3. Identity: what does it mean to how we see ourselves? E.g. : I am afraid to share emotions because I fear being rejected coming off as weird.

🔗My contribution

Reflect on intention. They are complex and probably not completely clean. Admit selfish behavior.

Typical contributions to a problem: avoiding bringing it up until now, being unapproachable intersection: different communication styles (solve immediately vs wait to gain distance and perspective from problem. They stem from different backgrounds and tend to lead to a blame frame)

Mention your contribution at the beginning so they feel less need to become defensive.

Ask about your actions that contributed to the problem. Be specific in what caused the problem

How did your family treat emotions? This most certainly impacts how you deal with them. Avoidant, hiding weakness, rationalizing.

🔗Preparation and expectations

Let go of trying to control their reaction. Some messages are inevitably going to cause strong emotions. Rather measure success by delivering message, taking responsibility for your share in the outcome, show care and try to be helpful.

Prepare for potential identity issues. Is it okay if I make someone cry? What if they attack my character?

Ask for time to think about it. Avoid impulsive reactions.

Don’t always say everything is good. Describe your feeling: I am tired. I need some space. I am in a hurry.

Don’t try to convey critique in a hurry through a snappy message like “oh, ,ate again ?”. Instead ask for time to talk.

Start from third story. My sense is that you and I see things different. I’d like to share my view and learn about your perspective.

Let the other know up front of your goal (share mutual understanding and find solution together)

🔗How to start

Share your internal struggle in a positive role: the story in my head is.. I know there is more to it. Could you help me understand where you are coming from on this ?

Don’t start by I think I deserve a raise. Start from third perspective. I’d like to explore whether a raise makes sense.

Talk about how to talk. Treat the usual way as problem from a third perspective. “I definetly get the sense that you don’t like discussing this, at least not the way I do”

What to talk about:

🔗Persuade through listening and exploring emotions

Don’t push your beliefs on someone: “You should follow this diet, it’s good for you”. This only chokes the other up. Instead show curiousity. Shift from persuasion to learning. “When you say it’s upsetting, what do you mean? … How do you feel about it?” Paraphrase to check understanding of how your appoach is damaging. Suggest what they want to let them open up.

Don’t fixate on problem-solving. Feelings crave to be acknowledged: “I know this has been a hard time for you..” Too often people say you can’t make it right, because they fail to see the unacknowledged feelings.

Stubborn people who repeat themselves don’t feel heard. Listen for feelings, like frustation or pride or fear and acknowledge them. Paraphrase them.

When you feel you are right and the other just doesn’t see it, show curiosity: “What else do I need to know for that to make more sense?”

Make your question an invitation and not a demand.

🔗Stop and pause. Get feelings out or get some space

When you can’t calm your inner voice to explore their path, then talk about your feelings. Get heard to be able to genuinely listen again. “I’m glad you trust me to tell me this, and I really want to listen. At the same time, this is very upsetting for me. I’m feeling akward. I’m not sure how to act around you now”.

Rather than give the other person half your attention when upset with emotions, it’s better to say “This is important to me, I want to find time to talk about it, but right now I am not able to”

🔗Direct and open communication

Start with what matters most. It seems obvious but it sometimes takes courage to admit our own feelings. (it’s important to me to feel like a good brother..)

Don’t rely on subtext. “Is golf really so important to you?”. Real message is: “I want to spend more time with you”

🔗Explore their path

Don’t ask if they agree. Ask how they see it differently.

Just mentioning you had no bad intentions is only defensive and not helpful. Explore their feelings and acknowledge them. “I can see you are upset about what I did and I was not aware of the consequences. Can you tell me more about it how you felt so we can avoid it in the future?”

Do not share your impact / hurt feelings by accusing them. Try the third person persepctive to state the action and how they make you feel. Do not interpret their intentions. Ask them what they thought to do this. Sharing pure feelings (without judgement) saves problem solving later.

🔗Strong emotions

Reframe when others have stirred up emotions. “You hurt me on purpose” -> I see you feel angry about what I did. Can you say more about how you felt?

🔗Finding a solution

You can state that you understand their point and still disagree. Just be open to be persuaded. “I’m still not pursued why this should be done”. Say what would persuade you.

Ask what would persuade them. Ask for their advice.“What would you do if you were in my shoes”

After stating your contribution to problem, find a solution to solve it in the future.

Accept that there is not always a good solution. You might not mutually agree even after a difficult conversation. Be aware of what you are willing to give up and tell the consequences if nothings changes. Could you accept to lose your job?

🔗Preparation checklist

  1. Prep the 3 conversations: what happened? understand emotions what’s at stake for you?
  2. Check your purpose and decide wheterh to raise the issue? (is the problem about me?)
  3. Start from the third story. Include both parts as legitimate. Share your purpose and invite them to share theirs.
  4. Explore their story and yours: listen, share your viewpoint and past experience, reframe
  5. Invent actions

Dealing with “Enough is enough” situations:

  1. Here’s what I see
  2. Impact on me
  3. You may disagree with perceptions or feel your behavior is justified. It doesn’t matter who is right. Our current way doesn’t work for me.
  4. I am asking you to change this behavior. Otherwise, here’s what I’m going to do