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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

What the critics say

"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 listeners say about How to Have Impossible Conversations

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A manual on how alienate and anger people.

This book is a practical guide to how to maneuver, badger, manipulate and shame someone for holding a different point of view than you do. Real conversations require listening, thinking and responding and nowhere in this book does the author have the intent of listening or understanding the "other side". True conversations must contain a genuine desire to learning, understanding and self-reflection. Even mundane conversations like why someone bought the car they did or why they don't eat a MacDonalds offer the potential for some information you didn't consider and insights on how they think. Each offers you a tremendous opportunity to learn, to expand your thought process and encourage others. Even if you disagree with them or their conclusions. This book is not about that, it is about turning any conversation into a debate...one in which the other party has not agreed to. The author provides numerous examples and in none of them does he try to understand what the person thinks or feels but rather restricts his questions to strategic manipulations in order to strike back. It is clear from his examples that he is a dogmatic atheist but is blind to his own ignorance and only "wins" conversations with those who are equally ignorant. At one point, the author suggests not to use "facts" and illustrates this by pointing to a debate between Billy Nye and a creationist. If you haven't seen that debate just know it is to intellectual discourse what a toddler smack fest is to the MMA. It is sad and embarrassing to watch. This is the nature of the issues we have today in our society: constant unrelenting confrontation. Even simple mundane conversations are turned into a debates with someone who is "locked and loaded" while you are just making small talk or posting on Facebook about your new car. If you love this book and can't wait to use its strategies, please never talk to me. I'm not interested.

5 people found this helpful

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Excellent toolkit for polarized times

Fantastic work, and easy to implement. Bawling with friends and family over divisive topics has become the norm, and ends up fruitless. These tools can help them do the work of changing their own minds, while also making you take a look at your own cherished beliefs, if you're up to it. Great listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Well Thought Out

The authors obviously spent a tremendous amount of time and cognitive energy crafting this book. Filled with excellent advice on how to effectively and concisely communicate better with anyone you encounter. A must read for anyone who wants to advance to a more sophisticated life and career.

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  • JMS
  • 2020-10-06

Helpful framework that requires practice

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” Listen to the audiobook review on Audiobook Reviews in Five Minutes podcast: https://podcast.jannastam.com/ Would you like to have more productive conversations with people who think differently than you or strongly disagree with you? Hint: it’s unlikely to happen online. While many fear that conversations about politics, religion, and values are a futile endeavour these days, this audiobook may encourage you to persevere in your attempts to connect with others who hold what might seem to be intractable points of view.

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Enriched learning...

He used many strategies that I've learned to employ over the years. Yet in each case, he took the lessons much deeper. And expanded on the logic used to determine what other options might be more appropriate so that I could explore and experiment.

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  • Robin
  • 2020-02-27

Important Skills Spoiled By Author Opinions

The important skills are presented in a clear, easy to understand format. Unfortunately the author inserts his political opinions throughout the book, which makes the book far harder to listen to. I wish the author had taken his own advice and stuck the the solid rules he lays out for the reader instead.

236 people found this helpful

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  • megan
  • 2019-09-20

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.

43 people found this helpful

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  • Alex Levy
  • 2020-03-25

No other book will be as relevant after COVID-19

I mean it. The conversations we are going to have, we MUST have, are going to be rather difficult. Peter and James are 'godsend' because they have given us a guide to make the most of these conversations. In a world after COVID-19, the world will talk . . . a lot. The question is, are we going to have impossible conversations and do something about them, or not? I would put all my money betting that, if we all read How To Have Impossible Conversations, we most certainly will. PS - Peter offers an Easter Egg in the afterword. (It's worth it!).

35 people found this helpful

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  • Tomas P Cservenak
  • 2020-04-04

Great way to keep friends in tough conversations

Also great deescalation techniques. Should be required reading for any new business or relationship, awesome

23 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous Ed
  • 2020-01-26

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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-12-08

amazing book

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

14 people found this helpful

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  • Wayne
  • 2020-05-28

The listener should expect more!

How to Have Impossible Conversations is disappointing because it promises so much and delivers so little. I purchased it because (1) i have a requirement that I place on myself that at least 10% of the sudiobooks I listen to will be non-fiction and (2) it was a $3.95 (the price of a good cup of coffee) Audible Daily Deal. The techniques that the authors say one should practice and drill are for the most part common sense. They also do not work when a conservative is seeking to exchange political views with a progressive because almost all progressives are unwilling to even talk with a conservative for fear it might changes their minds causing them isolation from other progressives. Chapter 7, just before the end of the book, is a cursory discussion of concepts from Jonathan Haidt's excellent 2012 social psychology book The Righteous Mind. If listeners to the pablum of How to Have Impossible Conversations find themselves ordering Haidt's book that the meager offerings will be worthwhile. What makes audiobooks a great medium is the quality of narration and thankfully there are many outstanding narrators. The authors would have done well to hire a professional narrator because Professor Boghossian stinks at it. I would apologize if I seem sarcastic but it's the book's fault! Now let's get back to some good fiction.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Grant
  • 2020-01-31

Fast Speaker

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

12 people found this helpful

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  • William G. Voit
  • 2020-01-06

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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • M. J.
  • 2019-10-20

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.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-07-05

amazing book

the content of this book should be taught at school! this is a must read.