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How to Have Impossible Conversations

A Very Practical Guide
Narrated by: Peter Boghossian
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

Non-member price: $39.71

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Publisher's Summary

"This is a self-help book on how to argue effectively, conciliate, and gently persuade. The authors admit to getting it wrong in their own past conversations. One by one, I recognize the same mistakes in me. The world would be a better place if everyone read this book." (Richard Dawkins, author of Science in the Soul and Outgrowing God)

In our current political climate, it seems impossible to have a reasonable conversation with anyone who has a different opinion. Whether you're online, in a classroom, an office, a town hall - or just hoping to get through a family dinner with a stubborn relative - dialogue shuts down when perspectives clash. Heated debates often lead to insults and shaming, blocking any possibility of productive discourse. Everyone seems to be on a hair trigger.

In How to Have Impossible Conversations, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay guide you through the straightforward, practical, conversational techniques necessary for every successful conversation - whether the issue is climate change, religious faith, gender identity, race, poverty, immigration, or gun control. Boghossian and Lindsay teach the subtle art of instilling doubts and opening minds. They cover everything from learning the fundamentals for good conversations to achieving expert-level techniques to deal with hardliners and extremists. This book is the manual everyone needs to foster a climate of civility, connection, and empathy.

©2019 Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"In the course of my work over the past quarter century I have been having impossible conversations with Holocaust deniers, creationists, anti-vaccination advocates, 9/11 Truthers, chemtrail conspiracy theorists, believers in astrology and ESP, proponents of alternative medicine, religious fundamentalists of many faiths, and dozens more people with whom I disagree vehemently. I've gotten pretty good at it but I had no idea what I was doing until I read How to Have Impossible Conversations, a sterling compendium of the most effective techniques of communication. I wish I'd had this important book at the start of my career as I would have saved myself many a fruitless dialogue. This book is the start of healing our contentious and divided age." (Michael Shermer, publisher Skeptic magazine, Presidential Fellow Chapman University, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth, and for 18 years a monthly columnist for Scientific American)

"This fascinating book provides not only useful instruction on how to talk with someone who thinks differently, it also offers a powerful method of questioning and reducing confidence in unsubstantiated beliefs to help people think about what is true." (Helen Pluckrose, editor, Areo Magazine)

"I thought I knew all I needed to know about conversations and arguments. I was wrong. I just knew a lot about debates and rows. In their insightful and highly readable new book, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay offer all kinds of ingenious pathways to constructive dialogue. At a time when public discourse has degenerated into mud-slinging and when campuses favour every kind of diversity except viewpoint diversity, this is an invaluable contribution. I guarantee that reading it will make you more - much more - persuasive." (Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford)

What members say

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    4 out of 5 stars

Fantastic, very informative. Chapter four really

helped me understand why I do struggle with conversations.


Excellent listening for everyone, thanks.

2 people found this helpful

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  • megan
  • 20-09-2019

Good Read

I would suggest this to anyone who has been having a difficult time having conversations with people with different views. I learned that I have not been listening and trying to throw facts at people. This is where I plan to start in my practice of having good conversations. Thank you for writing this book. I'm sure I will re-read it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • M. J.
  • 20-10-2019

prerequisite to civility

this book should be reading material for people of all backgrounds. in the age of Twitter president and cancel culture, it is of utmost importance to relearn the art of enjoying a conversation, no matter how much of difference of opinion exists.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous Ed
  • 26-01-2020

It's jammed with helpful information

This book is extremely helpful, but it moves pretty fast. A course with study material, tests and labs could be developed from the knowledge contained within it - but only taught by instructors that have mastered the material and demonstrated high levels of proficiency in it. These conversational techniques should be taught along with logic in all schools in my opinion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-12-2019

amazing book

I thought I was decent at conversation until I read this book it changed my life

1 person found this helpful

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  • April K
  • 01-10-2019

Life changing!

powered through this wonderful book and took a ton of notes. I loved it so much, I'm going to be buying the paper book as well. I am a long time street epistemology fan, and felt like this book was much more effective at changing minds, and more respectful than A Manual for Creating Atheist. I did like that book too minus some of his basic "bacon tho" arguments

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  • G. Haas
  • 31-01-2020

Fast Speaker

The person who was narrating the book spoke too fast at times. I think this book would be better read in person.

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  • William G. Voit
  • 06-01-2020

Excellent book!! So much to take in and ponder on.

This is awesome book. It will be on my short rotation list to listen to again after I reflect on the contents. So much to take in and ponder on.

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  • Nathan Simmons
  • 29-09-2019

Incredible resource

I’ve seen so much of myself and those around me in this.


I’m excited to start applying this content

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ricky
  • 09-10-2019

Succinct, As practical as advertised & Effective

A candidate for my answer to: 'If you could wave a magic wand and make everyone have read one book what would it be?'. This book provides an education in an essential meta-tool by which so many other problem could be mitigated, the endangered art of meaningful conversation.

3 people found this helpful

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  • chris kirkland
  • 23-09-2019

Recommended for anyone planning on having a conversation

A great listen, and presumably also a great read. Handy for both impossible and possible conversations.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 15-11-2019

How to moderate your thoughts and speech

While this book gave me lots of food for thought, and contains interesting insights, research and ideas; it is a book about becoming more centrist/sounding more moderate, it is not a book that will help you converse about genuinely difficult or oppressive circumstances.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. J. Rayner
  • 28-11-2019

Great

This is a really great book. I've read several like it recently, but this is one of the best. Some really good tips about the structure of conversations in regards to difficult topics plus much more about daily interaction.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tjjmaxd
  • 22-12-2019

Statement of the obvious

I really hoped this book would teach you how to have those awkward conversations where you had to push past your anxiety and tell someone something that might’ve been hard to hear or something along those lines, ie a difficult conversation.
Instead it just focuses on a non-conflictual form of communication which reduces real verbal conflict to a minimum. Great for those who wish to appear meek. A grand tour in how to not say anything too pertinent that might offend. Backed up by science and years of research. Statement of the blooming obvious.

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  • I P Siara
  • 30-01-2020

Disappointing and preachy

Too many of the authors personal views got in the way of the message

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  • Simon Rowse
  • 12-11-2019

Embarrassingly naive

The author pretty much lists out hypothetical conversations which would never occur in real life. Quite a few of his questions are aggressive and would offend most people. If he has had these conversations they are either alternatively motivated to participate or will despise this guy after the encounter.

Do not try this at home.

3 people found this helpful