The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate

In her most affirming and life-changing book yet, Dr. Harriet Lerner teaches us how to restore love and connection with the people who matter the most. In The Dance of Connection we learn what to say (and not say) when:

  • We need an apology, and the person who has harmed us won’t apologize or be accountable.
  • We don’t know how to take a conversation to the next level when we feel desperate.
  • We feel worn down by the other person’s criticism, negativity, or irresponsible behavior.
  • We have been rejected or cut off, and the other person won’t show up for the conversation.
  • We are struggling with staying or leaving, and we don’t know our “bottom line.”
  • We are convinced that we’ve tried everything — and nothing changes.

Filled with compelling personal stories and case examples, Lerner outlines bold new “voice lessons” that show us how to speak with honor and personal integrity, even when the other person behaves badly.

Whether we’re dealing with a partner, parent, sister, or best friend, The Dance of Connection teaches us how to navigate our most important relationships with clarity, courage, and joyous conviction.


  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006095616X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060956165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
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5 thoughts on “The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate”

  1. I’m a therapist, and like therapists around the country I recommend Lerner’s books to my clients, especially THE DANCE OF ANGER. To be honest, I thought she had said it all. But to my surprise, she really outdid herself in this book. No one can afford to miss this one. Her writing is witty, engaging and her advice is solid and clear as a bell. She teaches us how to talk to the most difficult people in the most difficult situations, like when we are betrayed, rejected, insulted, or cut-off. This book offers help when we can’t figure out whether to stay or leave a relationship, when we can’t make ourselves heard, or when a partner or family member can’t or won’t apologize. It’s a book to read slowly and savor, because it will change your life. Or you might just zip through it because you can’t put it down.

  2. “I’ve read all of Harriet Lerner’s books starting with The Dance of Anger which has been my relationship bible. But The Dance of Connection is her best book yet. Lerner is wise and helpful, funny and real. The chapters that meant the most to me was one on clarifying a bottom line and another about “voicing the ultimate” in marriage. I finally got the difference between complaining and being able to take a clear position with my husband–and stay with it. Together with the chapter on warming things up, this book has already made a huge difference in my marriage. I was also fascinated by the author’s revealing story about her dad’s silence and how it effected the family. There’s terrific advice on how to “find your voice”–and what to do and say–when you are rejected and cut off by a family member.

  3. In a moment when we feel safe, loved, comfortable, and relaxed, most people can communicate quite well and strengthen relationships. Catch us off guard with a terrible blow from someone close, and our knees may jerk so hard that they hit us in the jaw. We may say and do things that damage or destroy relationships. What can we do instead of these harmful reactions? How can we repair things once the damage has been done?
    While many authors have written fine books about building and maintaining good and deteriorating relationships, this book has taken on all of the tough issues as its focus. You think your spouse is cheating with someone else. Your child won’t speak to you. Your husband has taken liberties with your daughter. Your best friend says she or he never wants to see you again. There’s a terrible family crisis and the other person cuts you off.
    Dr. Lerner draws on her personal experiences as well as case histories from her practice as a psychotherapist to give you answers. In doing so, she doesn’t promise solutions will follow. But you can be sure that you will have done a great deal to try to help the situation.
    The book starts with the contrast of adult behavior to how children behave. Two children become angry in a sandbox, but five minutes later are quietly playing together again. “They choose happiness over righteousness.” Adults usually do the opposite.
    The essence of the book is to encourage you to figure out what you need to have from a relationship, and to communicate those needs, while finding out the same from the other person. In that simple statement, the book’s concept is very much like the better negotiating books (such as Getting to Yes).Read more ›

  4. Harriet Lerner has written a book that speaks to the best in all of us. She speaks of being able to feel, think, and speak at the same time, or at least in some reasonable time frame.
    She deals with issues of hurt, anger, resentment, individuation, autonomy so well, while at the same time respecting relationships, and learning to foster more intimate ones. There is nothing “gamey” about her advice, nothing manipulative, no oneupmanship, no proving, just honesty and caring in a respectful way.
    There are so many self-help books around on relationships that get people in more trouble than they were before. Dr. Lerner has succeeded in providing wisdom, humility, humor and understanding so that people can grow and develop throughout the life cycle.

  5. There is an underlying theme in this book that I think is important for every couple to consider: perhaps our expectations of our partners are too high. I’ve been a therapist for 25 years, and the most common problem I’ve encountered involves unexpressed-and often unconscious-expectations that one person has about the other. Women, I believe (and I think Dr. Lerner supports this as well), have higher expections than men. Sometimes they are so high, and so many, that there is no way not to be disappointed. What would happen if we lowered our expectations? We might, as Lerner suggests, become better listeners, and take more responsibility for fulfilling our own needs, rather than demanding that our happiness be met solely at home. Of all of Lerner’s books, this is one I recommend most often to my clients. We don’t need a soul-mate to be happily married, and if we lower the bar just a little, a “good enough” spouse can adequately provide the decades of richness we need.

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