The first question a reviewer faces is whether to recommend the book. In this regard, my job in reviewing Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen is trivial: I strongly recommend it. Their topic--how to make difficult conversations productive--is both important and largely unexplored, and their insights are original and highly penetrating. How should one ask one's boss for a raise? How should one tell a spouse that one wants a divorce? How should one talk with an elderly parent about entering an assisted-care facility? For those who either engage in or study difficult conversations, this text is a must-read. The more difficult task is to define the work's strengths and weaknesses. Below, I begin by briefly summarizing the work. I then assess its strengths and its weaknesses.
Jonathan R. Cohen, Difficult Conversations Made Easier, 4 Harv. Negot. L. Rev. 305 (1999), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/673