Summary of How to Have a Difficult Conversation

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How to Have a Difficult Conversation summary

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Conflict is normal in the workplace as well as at home, yet most people shy away from talking through their issues. But lingering conflict can fester and lead to more problems down the road. Professional mediator Adar Cohen encourages you to address conflicts by uncovering the “gem statement” that can change the tone of the entire conversation. His technique might transform your next unpleasant conversations into a productive and mutually beneficial discussion.

About the Author

Adar Cohen is a mediator with a PhD in conflict resolution from Trinity College Dublin. He has lectured at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and Sherubtse College, Bhutan.


In difficult conversations, aim for mutual understanding.

People commonly tend to avoid conflict, which can lead to further disagreements. Yet dealing with and handling conflict well helps strengthen relationships and facilitates personal growth. Tough conversations have three possible outcomes: a solution, a plan or an understanding. Don’t aim too high: Initially, work toward understanding.

“Gem statements” reveal common ground beneath a conflict and can redirect difficult conversations constructively.

Successful conflicts produce gem statements. These are honest, positive and meaningful comments that promote compromise, problem-solving and goodwill. In one argument about their elderly father’s medical care, for example, siblings arrived at the gem agreement that they all wanted what’s best for their father, even though they had different...

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