Can we talk?: Seven principles for managing difficult conversations at work
Review by Fiona Robinson-Morey, Organisational Communications Manager
Matuson, R. C. (2021). Kogan Page Limited.
“Can we talk?” are three words that send a shiver down most of our spines and sound like the prelude to a break up conversation.
This book is actually about giving you the tools, tips and the language to tackle difficult conversations in a way that’s respectful to both parties.
It’s aimed at people leaders managing difficult conversations in the workplace, but it’s not about getting what you want at any cost. It’s about approaching conversations with the intent of greater understanding or mutual respect.
The book dedicates a chapter to each of the seven principles of confidence, clarity, compassion, curiosity, compromise, credibility and courage, so it’s easy to skip to the part you want to focus on. Equally though, it’s about knowing which combination of the seven principles you need to draw on for the conversation at hand.
It's great that the book tackles compassion, because it’s so foundational. Compassion is critical to leaders communicating in the current context and yet this book goes one step further to offering guidance on how to demonstrate compassionate in a conversation while still setting clear expectations. The chapter on clarify is a really practically useful and includes a handy section on handling tough conversations remotely.
The chapter on curiosity was the biggest eye opener for me, and the one I’ve thought about most since finishing the book. It includes curious questions to open a conversation with. I found this really useful, because often knowing how to start a difficult conversation is the hardest part for leaders at all levels. I’ve sweated over saying the wrong thing many a time when a tough conversation has loomed large so I found this book really useful. It was the type of book I wanted to highlight sections of and cover in post-it notes for future reference – and that’s a good recommendation.