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Get What You Want With Charles Duhigg

Haley Paskalides  |  March 27, 2024

Charles Duhigg shares how to look at every conversation like a negotiation and be able to navigate them better.

Think about the conversations you have every day. There are the ones you have with your friends over coffee to catch up on life, the ones you have with a family member while walking the dog, and countless others throughout your week. While it may not seem like it, every conversation (yes, even the mundane ones!) is a negotiation, and once we have the skills to know which type of conversation we’re in, we can use every single conversation to better connect with those around us. 

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That’s what Charles Duhigg argues in his new book “Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection.” Duhigg, a journalist, wrote the book because he found that although his entire job was about communicating, he would often find himself growing frustrated with the way conversations with his wife were going.

“I would come home from work and I would start complaining about my day, and my wife would say something like, ‘Why don’t you take your boss out to lunch and you guys can get to know each other better?’ Duhigg says. “And instead of being able to hear what she was saying, I would get even more upset and I would say, ‘Why aren’t you supporting me? You’re supposed to be on my side.’ And then she would get upset because I was attacking her for giving me good advice.” 

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This led Duhigg down a path to answer the question of why we find it so difficult to understand each other sometimes. “We tend to think of a discussion as being about one thing, and we’re usually wrong,” Duhigg says. The key to being able to understand each other is to figure out which [kind of conversation] we’re having: practical, emotional, or social. “In practical conversations, we’re solving problems or we’re making plans together,” Duhigg says. “In emotional conversations, I want you to empathize. And finally, social conversations are about how we relate to each other and social identities that are important to us.”

For example, Duhigg says that while we may think of money conversations as practical, they’re actually quite emotional. “Oftentimes, even though we’re using practical language, what we’re talking about is our anxieties, our guilt, our worries or excitement about the future — and it feels complicated,” Duhigg says. 

The next time you want to sit down with your partner and have a financial conversation, Duhigg recommends addressing these differences head-on and saying something like: “I want to talk about money and our budget, and there is a practical conversation here… But before we do it, we need to have the emotional conversation.” That way, you and your partner can feel like you’re in cooperation with one another, rather than in opposition.


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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