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In their wonderful book, Difficult Conversations, the authors (Stone, Patton and Heen) point out that difficult conversations (anything you find it hard to talk about) are difficult because they are important. Something needs to be addressed.

They also say that, generally, people are not good at difficult conversations—whether at work or in a relationship.

But here’s the silver lining to that cloud: anyone who develops skills in dealing with difficult conversations has a real advantage—in career as well as in personal life.

 So how do we become more skillful at dealing with difficult conversations?

True, deep listening can help, of course. But this is also a place where we can put joy to work.

Joy—with its favorite tools, humor and playfulness—eases tensions and helps us speak honestly but gently and respectfully.

Robert Townsend, former CEO of Avis Rent-A-Car tells about an associate who had a unique way of expressing his disagreement.

When Townsend was pressing a new idea that the associate didn’t think would work, the associate sent Townsend a memo that read:

“Dear Jefe do Oro [an Inca form of address that means Chief of Gold]: If you say so, it will be my hourly concern to make it so. But before I sally forth in service of this, your latest cause, I must tell you with deep affection and respect that you’re full of it again.”