Ep 109: How to Have Difficult Conversations – Part 1 (with Sheila Heen)

by Joan Garry

How do you build the muscle to make sure difficult conversations go well? What might you not be aware of that could change everything?


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Think about a dreaded moment in which you had to tell someone something they didn’t want to hear or just didn’t want to know… Or that you knew would lead to a confrontation.

This episode is about difficult conversations and how to approach them.

Most of us try to avoid these kinds of difficult conversations. They are just so uncomfortable. But if you handle them the right way, you can actually come out better on the other side.

Sheila Heen, co-author of the best-selling book Difficult Conversations, has been a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School since 1995. She joins the podcast today to discuss how there are actually more than two sides to every story.

How do you build the muscle to make sure difficult conversations go well? What might you not be aware of that could change everything?

This is part 1 of a 2-part podcast.

About Sheila Heen

Sheila is a Founder of Triad Consulting Group and has been on the Harvard Law School faculty since 1995. Sheila’s corporate clients include Pixar, Hugo Boss, the NBA, the Federal Reserve Bank, Ford, Novartis, AT&T and numerous family businesses. She often works with executive teams, helping them to work through conflict, repair working relationships, and make sound decisions together.

In the public sector she has also provided training for the New England Organ Bank, the Singapore Supreme Court, the Obama White House, and theologians struggling with disagreement over the nature of truth and God. Sheila has spent more than twenty years with the Harvard Negotiation Project, developing negotiation theory and practice. She specializes in particularly difficult negotiations – where emotions run high and relationships become strained.

Sheila is co-author of two New York Times bestsellers: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin 2nd ed 2010), and the recently released Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When It’s Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood) (Penguin 2014).

She has written for the Harvard Business Review, for the New York Times as a guest expert and as a Modern Love writer. Sheila has appeared on shows as diverse as Oprah and the G. Gordon Liddy show, NPR, Fox News, and CNBC’s Power Lunch. She has spoken at the Global Leadership Summit, Nordic Business Forum, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Harvard Negotiation Journal, and Real Simple.

Sheila is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Harvard Law School. She is schooled in negotiation daily by her three children.

In this Podcast:

    • Wrestling with the inner voices
    • The three conversations or stories
    • The meaning of what is not said
    • Are you being too defensive?
    • Using feedback to grow