Book Review

Having Hard Conversations

by Jennifer Abrams, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2009, 127 pp. with index, $$28.95 softcover

Delivering difficult news is a challenging responsibility given scant attention by administrator preparation programs. Many school leaders feel awkward and anxious raising sensitive or uncomfortable issues with a parent or a subordinate.

Having Hard Conversations


Having Hard Conversations is a valuable tool committed to keeping the focus on student achievement and the organization’s vision. Author Jennifer Abrams is a professional development consultant for a major school district.

She guides the reader through a skills-based process for conducting potentially contentious meetings. The book contains scenarios with which many of us can readily identify and presents scripts for conveying the desired message.

Acknowledging that “educators are nice guys,” this book encourages use of heart in dealing with difficult people while focusing on expected professional behaviors. Superintendents will connect with many of Abrams’ scenarios but will yearn for more cases specific to their daily work at the district level.

Having Hard Conversations helps us to clarify the behavior that goes beyond the annoying and that may damage or seriously affect others. The book directs readers through the steps of developing a pragmatic action plan to correct the undesirable behavior.

Reviewed by Edward J. Sullivan, chair, department of educational administration, SUNY New Paltz