Sheila Heen has spent the last three decades working to understand how people can better navigate conflict, with a particular specialty in difficult conversations.
She is a founder of Triad Consulting Group, a professor at Harvard Law School, and a co-author of 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), with Douglas Stone, and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, with Douglas Stone and Bruce Patton (with a newly updated third edition that was released in August).
Sheila and her colleagues at Triad work with leaders and organizations to build their capacity to have the conversations that matter most. Her clients have included Pixar, American Express, the NBA, the Singapore Supreme Court, the Obama White House, and theologians struggling with the nature of truth and God.
She is schooled in negotiation daily by her three children. You can find my first conversation with Sheila at tim.blog/SheilaHeen.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.
This episode is brought to you by Nordic Naturals, the #1-selling fish-oil brand in the US! More than 80% of Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fats from their diet. That is a problem because the body can’t produce omega-3s, an important nutrient for cell structure and function. Nordic Naturals solves that problem with their doctor-recommended Ultimate Omega fish-oil formula for heart health, brain function, immune support, and more. Ultimate Omega is made exclusively from 100% wild-caught sardines and anchovies. It’s incredibly pure and fresh with no fishy aftertaste. All Nordic Naturals’ fish-oil products are offered in the triglyceride molecular form—the form naturally found in fish, and the form your body most easily absorbs.
This episode is brought to you by ShipStation. Do you sell stuff online? Then you know what a pain the shipping process is. ShipStation was created to make your life easier. Whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon, Shopify, or over 100 other popular selling channels, ShipStation lets you access all of your orders from one simple dashboard, and it works with all of the major shipping carriers, locally and globally, including FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
This episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep! Helix was selected as the best overall mattress of 2022 by GQ magazine, Wired, and Apartment Therapy. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering 20% off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.
Want to hear Sheila’s last appearance on this program? Have a listen to our conversation in which we discussed three categories of difficult conversations, conveying curiosity without coming off as condescending, finding common ground amid a disconnect, rewriting the scripts for bad apologies, setting behavioral expectations, presenting obstacles as shared problems, blame-absorbers versus blame-shifters, and much more.
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Sheila Heen: Website | LinkedIn
- Connect with Triad Consulting Group: Website | Help Yourself
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen | Amazon
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen | Amazon
- Triad Consulting Group
- Harvard Negotiation Project | Harvard Law School
- Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project — How to Navigate Hard Conversations, the Subtle Art of Apologizing, and a Powerful 60-Day Challenge | The Tim Ferriss Show #532
- The Psychology of Victim Blaming | The Atlantic
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss | Amazon
- RE: Bill Cosby Quote from The 4-Hour Workweek | Nikita Singh, Twitter
- Sheila Heen: Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation (ACE) | Global Leadership Network
- Three Kinds of Feedback | Yale School of Medicine
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield | Amazon
- To Give Better Feedback, You Must Fully Understand the Agony of Receiving It | Quartz At Work
- Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt | Amazon
- Sheila Heen: Blame Absorbing vs. Blame Shifting | Global Leadership Network
- The Three Kinds of Feedback and Our Triggers | Conversation Agent
- Online Rorschach Inkblot Test
- Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values by Marshall B. Rosenberg | Amazon
- A Research-Based Approach to Relationships | The Gottman Institute
- The 6 Things That Predict Divorce | The Gottman Institute
- Why Do People Roll Their Eyes? Psychologist Suggests Theories for Passive-Aggressive Sign in Teenage Girls | The Independent
- How to Treat Fatigue From Lyme Disease: 5 Tips | Medical News Today
- For All Your Stories of Small Victories Over Those Who’ve Wronged You | r/PettyRevenge
- Kill Bill: Volume 1 | Prime Video
- Kill Bill: Volume 2 | Prime Video
- The 5 Love Languages Explained | Wisdom for Life
- How to Use Words of Affirmation in Your Relationship | Verywell Mind
- Sheila Heen: The “One Thing” Questions | Global Leadership Network
- [07:01] Conversations are the relationship.
- [08:12] How should we talk about feedback?
- [11:16] De-escalating the ask.
- [13:30] Addressing victim-blaming feedback for the new edition of Difficult Conversations.
- [28:48] How I’ve dealt with reader (and proofreader) feedback.
- [41:18] Making use of the three types of feedback.
- [49:05] Received difficult feedback? Phone a friend.
- [54:36] Discovering a good/bad match early in the dating game.
- [00:59:30] How I’ve traditionally handled conflict and stress.
- [1:07:50] The conundrum of feedback’s source.
- [1:09:03] Three triggered reactions to feedback.
- [1:12:09] The you plus me combination.
- [1:20:16] What does resolution look like?
- [1:22:52] The Gottman Institute.
- [1:29:35] Coping with a relationship’s unresolvable frictions.
- [1:33:41] The courtship of Sheila’s sister.
- [1:37:11] A thirst for vindictiveness and other deal breakers.
- [1:43:31] Learning from the comfort of our strengths.
- [1:45:43] Perspective from three positions.
- [1:47:09] How to extend positive reinforcement.
- [1:51:26] Giving feedback without starting a fight.
- [1:55:12] Asking “one thing” questions as a leader.
- [1:57:43] Are you aware of your need to receive feedback?
- [2:02:13] Parting thoughts.
MORE SHEILA HEEN QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“You know that hand mirror that you find in barbershops or hair salons? The reason we use that shape of mirror is because when the barber or the hairstylist shows it to you, they’re showing you the back of your head. They spin you around so that you can look in the mirror and see something that you can’t see by yourself. Being an honest mirror is asking a friend to help you see what might be right about this feedback.”
— Sheila Heen
“We uncovered some evidence that suggests that, in terms of sensitivity to feedback, how upset we get and how long it takes us to recover, that can vary by up to 3,000 percent.”
— Sheila Heen
“Part of what you’re trying to figure out when you’re dating is . . . ‘Who am I in this relationship as it’s starting to develop? Do I like the way that I am in this relationship and the way I’m showing up?’”
— Sheila Heen
“There’s a point where you have to decide, ‘If I assume this person is not going to change, can I live with that? Can we each live with that?’”
— Sheila Heen
“We have the biggest emotional reaction to the evaluation part because we hate being judged. It’s hard. It’s really hard to feel judged, so we’re quick to hear it in anything.”
— Sheila Heen
“For some people, part of what makes them feel safe or secure or reassured in a relationship is to rock the boat. I’ve had some relationships like that, [where] rocking the boat so that we have something to process helps me feel connected to you. It’s redemonstrating that you care. And that processing, emotional processing, goes to a place that feels comfortable to me and feels reassuring to me.”
— Sheila Heen
- Douglas Stone
- Bruce Patton
- Barack Obama
- Bill Cosby
- Steven Pressfield
- Jerzy Gregorek
- Hermann Rorschach
- John & Julie Gottman
- Hercule Poirot
- Sherlock Holmes
- John Richardson
- Stacy Heen Lennon
- Quentin Tarantino
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.