Matt Abrahams and Kim Scott: Radical Candor Podcast

Faster, Smarter Communication: Matt Abrahams Gets Radically Candid 6 | 24

On this episode of the Radical Candor podcast, Kim Scott interviews Matt Abrahams, a Stanford lecturer and author of “Think Faster, Talk Smarter.” Listen to learn how to bridge the communication style gap between introverts and extroverts and make your voice heard even in the busiest of settings.

Listen to the episode:

Episode at a Glance

Kim and Matt explore advanced strategies for confident and clear communication at work.

Communication is not an innate skill but a learned toolset. With self-awareness and tactical practices, you can think faster and talk smarter in any situation.

Whether you’re giving a presentation, participating in a meeting, or handling difficult feedback, this episode has something for everyone.

Start listening now to transform the way you communicate at work!

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist  


  1. Create a culture where it’s safe for people to interrupt and say, I don’t know what that means.
  2. To ensure you’re understood, make your points and then support them, repeat yourself, essentially, by using a different example.
  3. How can you be radically candid when in most cases the environment isn’t safe? Always start with soliciting feedback and then rewarding the candor when you get it. You’ve got to prove to people that it is safe, especially if you’re a leader. 

The TLDR Radical Candor Podcast Transcript

Matt Abrahams and Kim Scott: Radical Candor Podcast

[00:00:38] Kim Scott: Hello, everybody, and welcome! We, I am so excited to be here talking with Matt Abrams. I want to make sure, Matt, I should know this. Am I pronouncing your last name correctly?

[00:00:51] Matt Abrahams: I’ll respond to anything. My family says Abrahams, just because it’s easier to pronounce. 

[00:00:55] Kim Scott: Okay, Abrahams. Okay, Matt Abrahams. Sorry. 

[00:00:57] Matt Abrahams: No worries.

[00:00:59] Kim Scott: Uh, about his fabulous book, Think Faster, Talk Smarter, and Matt, I have a question for you. So Radical Candor has this problem, which people hear the title, they don’t read the book, and they think it, they use it as an excuse to act like a jerk. 

[00:01:17] Matt Abrahams: Oh. 

[00:01:18] Kim Scott: And, uh, and a couple of people who I’ve recommended your book to have said, oh, you know, you’re, I’m an introvert, and he’s trying to get me to talk like an extrovert, and that’s not what you’re doing. So talk to us about the book. 

[00:01:31] Matt Abrahams: Well first I’m sorry that people are misperceiving Radical Candor because everybody should be reading it , it’s a really valuable book. So, 

[00:01:38] Kim Scott: You know, by the way, I’m going to interrupt you Kelly Leonard who wrote Yes, And told me of a two word book title. It’s not a superpower if it can’t be used for evil so, 

[00:01:48] Matt Abrahams: Ah, I see. I know Kelly. Yes, and he’s very wise in many many ways. Um, so Think Faster, Talk Smarter is all about helping everybody speak better in the moment. You know, introverted, extroverted, experienced communicator, less experienced communicator. We’re all put into circumstances where we have to speak on the spot. Somebody asks you a question, asks for feedback. You’re making small talk, uh, you make a mistake and you have to fix it. 

[00:02:14] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:02:14] Matt Abrahams: Those are the circumstances that the book is really targeted towards. 

[00:02:20] Kim Scott: Yes, and the thing that I love about this book is that it helps, it gives people really practical, tactical advice about what to do, uh, when that kind of thing is happening. So, uh, if it’s okay, Matt, what I’d love to do is read you, uh, sort of a workplace dilemma that one of the Radical Candor podcast listeners wrote into us. And let’s talk about some of the advice in your book that would help this person. How about that? 

[00:02:55] Matt Abrahams: Sure, sounds great. Sounds great. Bring it on.

[00:02:58] Kim Scott: All right. So here’s what this person says. The culture that I’m working within favors multitaskers and quick problem solvers. So the folks who are more thoughtful thinkers and doing the behind the scenes slash soft skills stuff aren’t always seen as leaders. It’s hard to explain to them what they’re doing wrong because they might be taking all of the right steps, but maybe just not moving as quickly as somebody else would.

[00:03:26] Probably for good reason though, if the work is super detail oriented. So sometimes it seems like the feedback that you need to give ties more to how to alter the perception that you’re giving off to others, so that it doesn’t seem like dragging feet or excuse giving, as opposed to needing to give feedback on how to do the actual work.

[00:03:47] This is the feedback that feels harder to give. It doesn’t feel fair to give, but also it’s hard to envision that person acting at the next level when they can’t seem to put, push things ahead in a way that feels meaningful. And while the things the culture favors are a little bit of a bummer for folks who are more thoughtful thinkers, it also feels they need to work within that system that’s been created. So there’s more, but let’s, I want to pause here and get your thoughts on this because I imagine you get a lot of these kinds of questions. 

[00:04:20] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, absolutely. So a few things to comment on and by, you know, I’m talking to the expert on giving feedback. So take that with, take my thoughts, uh, in that context. But the situation here I think is, one, we all do better when we have diverse thinkers and diverse ways of thinking in organizations. And it’s very common for organizations or pockets of organizations to be like what’s being described where everybody’s moving very quickly. 

[00:04:47] They’re all contributing, everybody’s jumping in. And for people who are more thoughtful, more reflective, this can be difficult. So I think there’s something that has to be looked at systemically at, you know, we as an organization, we as a group, will do better when we are more inclusive of these different ways of thinking. 

[00:05:02] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:05:03] Matt Abrahams: You know, I am an extreme extrovert, I move very quickly. My wife is an extreme introvert, she is very thoughtful. Uh, together, I think we make a great couple because we compliment each other. Uh, she has saved me, taken me back from the precipice of many mistakes, uh, because of her thoughtfulness. Uh, so the point is we want to have some balance. So I think there’s some systemic work to do. 

[00:05:22] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:05:23] Matt Abrahams: The other piece I would say is thinking about how to encourage these folks who sound like they’re adding value. It’s not that they’re not adding value. 

[00:05:29] Kim Scott: They are doing good work. 

[00:05:30] Matt Abrahams: They’re just not playing the game. Yeah. They’re just not playing the game. I’d encourage people to be thinking about ways that they can contribute that make them feel comfortable without them having to be, uh, disingenuous to themselves and not authentic.

[00:05:45] For example, if we’re in a meeting and it’s fast and furious and people are contributing and jumping on, and I’m somebody who needs to be a little more thoughtful before I contribute, I can add my voice without having to add a contribution. For example, I’m a huge fan of asking clarifying questions. 

[00:06:01] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:06:01] Matt Abrahams: You can ask a question and contribute by saying, hey, have we thought about cost or the implications?

[00:06:07] Second, you can paraphrase. I think paraphrasing is one of the most essential communication skills. It does so much for us. So in one of these meetings where there’s a lot going on, I can extract a few things that I’m hearing being said, share that with the group, say, so I’m really hearing that we’re crystallizing on this notion of the timeframe looking like this.

[00:06:28] I added no additional information, but I did help the group focus. And in some ways, that can be one of the most important things to do in that moment. So I think there’s some systemic work that has to be done. I think we have to encourage those individuals to find a way to contribute that doesn’t go against their way of being in terms of thinking.

[00:06:47] And I also think what I would do if in terms of what I think the next step of the question is, is what does the feedback sound like? I would ask these folks to think about their experiences of what has helped them be successful in some situations where they did speak up and what perhaps happened in situations where they didn’t. So they come to see that their active participation can make a difference.

[00:07:11] So rather than you telling them, you need to participate actively, you give them an opportunity to come to that conclusion themselves so you can help them along. 

[00:07:20] Kim Scott: Yeah, I think that something you said there is really important and I want to double down on it, but first I want to recognize, uh, Nate Waldron, who said we need to stop calling it soft skills. These are really power skills. 

[00:07:33] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:07:34] Kim Scott: I have a very complicated relationship with the word power, but let’s call them strong skills, or, uh, I, cause I totally agree. There’s nothing soft about it that 

[00:07:45] Matt Abrahams: I agree. 

[00:07:45] Kim Scott: The skills are what help us achieve results. So I, you said, you know, one of the things that you can do in a meeting where there’s a lot of stuff going on is summarize what has been said and this is really important. So , I’m a writer. So as you can imagine, I’m an introvert. And, uh, and before I went to business school, I was very nervous because this seems like a kind of environment like this, the person who wrote in this question is describing. It was highly, uh, a lot of extroverts and you were graded on your participations. 

[00:08:21] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, yeah.

[00:08:21] Kim Scott: And so I had a mentor who told me, he said here’s the thing to do, Kim. Come in and listen very actively. Like, pay a lot of attention to what other people are saying. And when the class, or the meeting, if you’re not in a business school class, is about uh, a little more than halfway through when it’s, when you’re about sixty percent in summarize what where you think people are and that allows the conversation to pivot.

[00:08:55] And if you have a new idea, add that idea in. And if you don’t have a new idea, it’s fine to propose a hypothesis. I think very often as an introvert, I feel like I have to be sure that what I’m saying is right before I say anything. And one of the things that was very liberating for me is to say, I don’t have to only talk about my conclusions. It’s also valuable to talk about hypotheses and observations. And, uh, and that helped me a lot. 

[00:09:29] Matt Abrahams: I think, yes, absolutely. The ability to share in a concise and clear way, your hypotheses, the things you’re thinking about that might, uh, impact the situation, very important. And I love that idea of strategically timing when you do the paraphrasing or the summarizing. 

[00:09:48] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:09:48] Matt Abrahams: Um, you said something there, Kim, that I think many of us, fear. And in the book, I really talk about this, you know, the way to get better at responding to spontaneous speaking situations is to manage your mindset, but also your messages. And you said something about you want to get it right before you speak. And I think a lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves. 

[00:10:08] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:10:09] Matt Abrahams: To say things the right way. And I think this actually can work against us. 

[00:10:13] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:10:13] Matt Abrahams: Because we’re constantly judging and evaluating. And what I advocate for is turning that volume down a little bit. Certainly we have to make sure that what we say is appropriate and fits. So there is some level of judging. But a lot of us are really really putting pressure on ourselves to say it right, to do it right. And that gets in the way. You know I teach at Stanford’s Business School so I know the type of student you were, and I work actively to try to set an environment where those who are a little more thoughtful have a chance to contribute.

[00:10:45] And one of the things I say is rather than think about perfection, focus on connection. And people who are actually deep thinkers and take the time to think things through are really good at connecting. So connection is much more important than perfection in what we say. 

[00:11:01] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny because as a writer, I’m so, uh, you know, there’s a lot of time to write the shitty first draft and then edit it and edit it and edit it. And for a long time I was a little uncomfortable about doing something like this, like you and I are doing. 

[00:11:18] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:11:19] Kim Scott: Or doing a podcast because I wasn’t able to edit what I was saying. And I think the reason why this kind of format is so valuable for people is, is that people actually sometimes prefer the rough draft to the final product. 

[00:11:34] Matt Abrahams: Yeah.

[00:11:34] Kim Scott: They like to watch how you’re thinking and the talking and drafts. So I think that can be really, really helpful. 

[00:11:42] Matt Abrahams: Absolutely. Conversation and discovery is really something that engages people. You know, if I just come to you with a polished solution, then I am presenting it to you rather than engaging you with it. So I love that idea of revealing your process as you’re going through it. Makes a lot of sense. 

[00:11:59] Kim Scott: Yeah. And Robinson, who’s, uh, who’s listening in, says listening, genuine listening and following up with nonverbal cues are crucial. Yes. And, you know, summarizing what other people have said is a way of giving them credit. 

[00:12:15] Matt Abrahams: Yeah.

[00:12:16] Kim Scott: And of connecting with them. 

[00:12:17] Matt Abrahams: Absolutely. So paraphrasing does several things. It validates the other person, it demonstrates you’ve listened. It validates that you heard things correctly, so you move things forward. And it gives you an opportunity, as was mentioned by a couple people, in below, is that you actually can then add your commentary to it.

[00:12:35] But you have to listen differently when you’re listening to summarize and paraphrase. Most of us listen just enough to get the gist of what somebody’s saying. And then we click into, here I’m going to formulate my response. I’m going to deliver it. You have to listen deeply. And that listening deeply serves to actually connect, build relationships, and increase accuracy of what you’re hearing.

[00:12:55] Kim Scott: I’ve learned that people will forget, uh, what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 

[00:13:03] Matt Abrahams: Yes, that’s Maya Angelou. Yeah, absolutely. 

[00:13:06] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:13:07] Matt Abrahams: Very true there. You know, I, when I encourage people to listen, I have a whole chapter in the book on, uh, on listening, which people find ironic because it’s about how do you communicate in the moment.

[00:13:16] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:13:17] Matt Abrahams: And listening is important. We, because we listen so fast, we miss subtle nuance that gets in the way. Okay. So imagine Kim, you and I come out of a meeting and you say, you know, how do you think that went? And I immediately hear, oh, she wants feedback. And I start itemizing all the things that could have been better, et cetera.

[00:13:33] But had I really listened, I would have noticed that you left through the back door, not the same door I did. You talked with a little less affect in your voice. You were looking down as you asked me the question. And perhaps what you were really asking for in that moment was support, not 

[00:13:48] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:13:49] Matt Abrahams: And by me criticizing all the things that we did wrong, that’s actually working against me. So I have to listen in a different way, a more nuanced way. And I teach with a colleague, his name’s Collins Dobbs. He’s a lecturer at the business school. And he has this way of talking about crucial conversations. And I borrowed his framework for listening with his permission. Pace, space, grace. We have to slow ourselves down.

[00:14:13] We move so quickly and things come at us so fast, you have to slow down to listen well. You have to give yourself some space, not just physical space, move to an environment where you can actually listen, but also mental space. I have to clear my mind to really listen and focus, be present. And then grace is allow yourself not just to listen to what you’re hearing.

[00:14:34] But also, what are you seeing and what’s that intuition that you’re feeling as a result of what you’re hearing? Give yourself permission and grace to respond in that way. So, pace, space, grace, I think, are ways to listen, to connect, like we’re talking about. 

[00:14:48] Kim Scott: And does grace also mean sort of assuming good intent of others? I often say that when you’re the listener, it’s really useful to assume good intent. 

[00:14:57] Matt Abrahams: Yeah. 

[00:14:57] Kim Scott: But when you’re the talker, it’s really, uh, it can be, you can be weaponizing good intent if you demand that the other person assume good intent of you. Uh, and so I think that is helpful. 

[00:15:10] Matt Abrahams: I absolutely agree. It’s very helpful to assume good intent even though what somebody is saying might feel harsh or might feel challenging. You know another mindset shift I often talk about is people turning these challenging situations into opportunities rather than threats.

[00:15:25] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:15:25] Matt Abrahams: You know, if I say to you, hey, at the end of your presentation, you’re going to get Q and A. Most people don’t go, oh, great. I’m so excited. Most people are, uh-oh, I have to defend my position. I’m going to get challenged. Yet, if you see an opportunity in that to connect, to extend, to collaborate, it changes your whole demeanor. So having that good intent perception, like you just discussed, is really important. 

[00:15:46] Kim Scott: Yeah. Kathy has a really good question. However, I struggle when a C level stops the conversation and asks me for an answer to a question that I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. So what is your advice? 

[00:16:00] Matt Abrahams: Right. So this is the second most frequently asked question I get. The first one is what do I do if I blank out? The second is how, what do I do when I don’t know the answer? 

[00:16:10] So I believe you have to say, I don’t know the answer. Making something up, I think, only sets you up for failure. It is real, it is unrealistic for somebody to expect that you know all the answers. So here’s how I would respond in that circumstance. I would say, I don’t know the answer. But here’s what I’m going to do to find the answer. And I give a path and a timeframe and I’ll get back to you by tomorrow. And then if you have an inkling or a hunch, I would say that I say, I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to go talk to Kim. I’ll get back to you in twenty-four hours. My hunch is the answer will be along these lines. 

[00:16:42] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:16:43] Matt Abrahams: And I think that’s a very reasonable answer. Now, if you’re doing that to every question, then we have a different issue. But every, uh, upon occasion, it’s okay not to know everything. 

[00:16:52] Kim Scott: Of course, of course. And I think sometimes the person may be asking a question that you can’t possibly know the answer to as a form of bullying you.

[00:17:02] Matt Abrahams: Yeah. 

[00:17:03] Kim Scott: And, and a good way to take the air out, out of that balloon is to say, I don’t know, but I can find out, you know? 

[00:17:08] Matt Abrahams: That’s right. 

[00:17:09] Kim Scott: Uh, because if you get, if you allow yourself to get into the trap of, oh, well, here’s what, then they’ll tell, believe me, they’ll tell you you’re wrong. And that’s worse.

[00:17:20] Matt Abrahams: Well, absolutely. And I’m a big fan of clarifying questions too. When somebody asks you a question, you don’t know, I might come back and ask for some clarification because maybe I do know something about this. I just don’t understand what they’re really trying to figure out. So I think it’s reasonable to come back and say, would love to answer your question. I’m curious though, about this, this, and this, and maybe out of that, you get something you can respond to. 

[00:17:39] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah. And so Kathy says sometimes they do expect you to have the answer and sometimes that expectation is unreasonable and, uh, and I think it’s perfectly fine not, to challenge unreasonable expectations.

[00:17:55] Uh, um, I think there’s also something that I want to talk, I want to talk about the bloviating BSer, but let’s finish on the question before we get into the 

[00:18:05] Matt Abrahams: I love the alliteration there too. 

[00:18:07] Kim Scott: Me too. Sometimes, even telling someone to take more ownership over deliverables or develop an executive presence, I have to say, every time I say those words, it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. Um, with clients, doesn’t even feel super tangible because executive presence is, when I’ve been told that what I, what they’re really telling is, gee, I wish you were a man. Anyway, uh, but also, I even have a problem of identifying the actual problem enough to get that far. I just assume it’s a cost of working with that person.

[00:18:42] Do you have any tips for turning the something’s just not quite right slash ready into actionable feedback to help people make it to the next level? So this is a situation where this person’s boss is telling them that someone who works for them is not ready for promotion. And this person thinks it’s not quite fair, like, but how can they help this person get ready?

[00:19:06] Matt Abrahams: So, you know, I’m, I would hope in these circumstances that this is not a one and done conversation. That they’ve been talking consistently over time about what it takes to get to the next level. So this just becomes part of a broader, longer conversation than coming back and saying, hey, here are the things that just aren’t fitting. Because that’s a much different conversation. When it comes to giving feedback like this, you know, I always see feedback and you and I have talked about this before. It’s an opportunity to problem solve. 

[00:19:34] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:19:35] Matt Abrahams: And so I wouldn’t come back and just say, hey, you’re not ready. Here are the three things you need to do. It’s coming back and saying to succeed in the lead, the next level up position. Here are some of the skills, attributes, and traits, let’s talk about and think through where you stack up on these and what we can do to help prepare you for that. And it’s, it becomes a conversation that we’re having, a problem together that we’re solving that has some direct actionable steps. And to me that’s a more productive conversation. That’s a conversation that demonstrates concern and support. And then I would also at the same time, if I believe this person is ready, I would be advocating and persuading up to also try to make sure that things are aligned. 

[00:20:16] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:20:16] Matt Abrahams: Uh, so I, as the person in that middle position would be working both ends, both directions. 

[00:20:21] Kim Scott: Yeah, that’s the difficulty of being a middle manager. I was once in a situation where there was someone who worked for me and, uh, he wanted a regional role, a global regional role. And the company, it was an American company, the region was Asia. And this guy had a very strong accent, and it was so unjust, but I knew that the person who led the whole region would have a problem with his accent. And I mean, I was not going to give this guy feedback. 

[00:20:56] Matt Abrahams: Right. 

[00:20:56] Kim Scott: That the problem was his accent, because the problem was that the person leading the region didn’t speak the language in the region, you know, it was really unfair. It was an extreme example of this. 

[00:21:08] Matt Abrahams: Right. 

[00:21:09] Kim Scott: And so I really had to work on the leader, not on, on the employee.

[00:21:14] Matt Abrahams: Yeah. Middle management is really tough. 

[00:21:16] Kim Scott: It’s hard. Yeah. 

[00:21:17] Matt Abrahams: Really, I’ve been there too. And what I’ve learned is alliances are really important. So it’s not just you going into the battle or into the conversation, but having others help you, uh, and echo what you’re saying can be helpful, but yes, it’s challenging.

[00:21:40] Kim Scott: What do you do when you just blank out? Like, how do you handle that situation? 

[00:21:44] Matt Abrahams: Yes. Okay. So, yeah, so I’ve got a lot to say about blanking out. So, a few things. There are things you can do in advance to help reduce the likelihood that you will blank out. One, the fear of blanking out is the single biggest driver of actually blanking out.

[00:21:57] So, we need to reduce our anxiety. Uh, and anxiety looms large in plan presenting and spontaneous speaking. In this book and in other places, I have lots to say about how to manage anxiety. There are things you can do to feel more comfortable and confident in communication. So that’s the first step is find ways.

[00:22:14] Kim Scott: What’s one way to manage anxiety? 

[00:22:18] Matt Abrahams: There are lots of ways. So we have to manage both symptoms and sources. Symptoms are what we physiologically experience, and then the sources are the things that initiate and exacerbate. So let me give you one of each. Deep breathing, as simple as it sounds, is fundamentally important to managing the symptoms we feel.

[00:22:34] Deep belly breath. Like if you’ve ever done yoga or tai chi or qigong where you really float, fill your lower abdomen can really help. Make sure that your exhale is twice as long as your inhale. I’ve been telling people to deep breathe for a long time. So that’s one way to manage symptoms. 

[00:22:50] A source of anxiety that many of us experience is we have a goal we’re trying to achieve, and I actually advocate for having goals in communication. But many of us are made nervous that we’re not going to achieve our goal. And if, you know, if I’m an entrepreneur i’m not going to get funding. If you’re one of my students I’m not going to get a good grade. If you’re a manager you’re not going to get support. Those are the things that cause you the anxiety.

[00:23:12] Anxiety about the goal is really anxiety about a potential negative future outcome. So if you can become more present oriented in the moment, by definition, you’re not worried about the future. So how do you do that? Well, you do something physical. You engage in a conversation. You listen to a song or a playlist before you go into the meeting or log into the virtual session.

[00:23:34] Kim Scott: You do the pose. 

[00:23:35] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, you can do the power pose, that’s physical. Uh, you can, I do something very simple. This sounds silly, I say tongue twisters. Before we started today, Kim, I will say a tongue twister to get me present oriented. It helps me focus in the moment and it warms up my voice. So, there are things we can do to manage both symptoms and sources that help us feel better, and that will help reduce blanking out.

[00:23:58] Kim Scott: What tongue twister did you say?

[00:24:00] Matt Abrahams: I know you’ll like this because you have a little flair. My favorite tongue twister is three phrases, takes five seconds, and if you say it wrong, you say a naughty word. So I’ll share this. I did this three times before you and I connected today. I slit a sheet. A sheet I slit. And on that slitted sheet, I sit. And you can see what the naughty word might be.

[00:24:22] And so that helps me get present oriented and it warms up my voice. You know, if you’re an athlete, a musician, an actor, you will always warm up before you do your things. 

[00:24:31] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:24:31] Matt Abrahams: Yet, when it comes to speaking, we think we’re going to go from silence to brilliance easily. And that’s silly. You need to warm up.

[00:24:37] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:24:37] Matt Abrahams: So in terms of blanking out, working on anxiety will help. Lowering your anxiety makes it less likely. Additionally, and I hope we can talk about this more in a bit, having a structure, a roadmap to your communication matters, both planned or spontaneous. Having a structure helps. It’s hard to get lost if you have a map.

[00:24:57] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:24:58] Matt Abrahams: So these are things we can do in advance. In the moment, if you do actually blank out, the worst has happened and you blank out, two suggestions. One, go back to go forward. Just like if you lose your keys or your phone you retrace your steps. For most of us, repeating what we just said will get us back on track, and we think, oh, repeating myself is bad. We repeat ourselves all the time. It’s actually helpful. 

[00:25:19] So don’t worry about repeating yourself. And if that doesn’t work, distract your audience. And what do I mean by that? Give your audience something to do so you can get yourself a moment to get yourself back on track. As a teacher, I do this all the time. I’ll forget what I want to say.

[00:25:33] And I’ll stop and I’ll say, let’s pause for a moment. And I’d like each of you to think about how what we’ve just said could impact your next interaction. My students aren’t thinking, oh man, Matt forgot. My students are thinking, wow, he really cares. I bet everybody listening into this can come up with a question that they could ask.

[00:25:50] That would get their audience thinking about their content. So that they can get themselves back on track. It could be as simple as, I want you to think about what we’ve just discussed and how it applies to the next topic. 

[00:26:02] And that gets people thinking, gives you that ten, fifteen seconds you need to get back on track. So to blank out, you have to do things in advance, reduce your anxiety, have a map that is a structure in mind, and then go back to go forward and distract your audience with a question. 

[00:26:17] Kim Scott: Yeah, I love that. So, see, this is what I mean. Practical, tactical tips. You can all do these things. 

[00:26:24] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:26:24] Kim Scott: One of the, one of the things that a speech coach told me when I got feedback that I said too many ums.

[00:26:30] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:26:32] Kim Scott: Was to force myself a couple of times in a presentation to pause for six seconds. To allow six seconds of silence. 

[00:26:42] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:26:43] Kim Scott: What do you think of that? That is hard. Six seconds is an eternity. 

[00:26:47] Matt Abrahams: Silence is really, really hard, but sometimes silence is the most important thing you can do in an interaction. Uh, I’m a big fan of improvisation. You mentioned Kelly Leonard, he’s an expert at improv. Uh, improv has this saying that I love, they have lots of sayings I love. It’s, don’t just do something, stand there. 

[00:27:04] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:27:04] Matt Abrahams: And really that emphasizes this point that a lot happens in silence. So, I think one way you demonstrate power, and I know we, you and I both have difficult, 

[00:27:16] Kim Scott: Authority, authority.

[00:27:18] Matt Abrahams: Right. One way to do that is to be silent, right? And that establishes some of that, but it also gives you time to collect your thoughts. And while you’re silent, your audience is doing work. Here’s the time that is most difficult I think people have being quiet. When you call for questions, are there any questions on what I’ve just said?

[00:27:37] You have to give people a few moments to formulate their questions, to muster their courage, to figure out what they want to say. Yet we sitting in that silence feel incredibly awkward. So most people say, are there any questions? No. Great. Thank you. They leave no time. So I’m a fan of silence. I’m a fan of silence to collect your thoughts and to let others collect their thoughts.

[00:27:57] Kim Scott: I love that. Uh, you know, it’s interesting. I noticed something yesterday. Usually I do now, most of my talks over Zoom or, uh, platform like this, a stream yard. And yesterday I actually went and did one in person and. It takes people a lot longer to ask questions when they’re in person than on the screen. I was like, oh my gosh, I got to count to twelve, you know? 

[00:28:25] Matt Abrahams: It does. It takes, yeah, because there’s a lot going on there. 

[00:28:30] Kim Scott: Yeah. So how can we speak differently when a colleague or a C level, uh, is not actively listening? So what do you do? How do you talk when someone’s not listening? What do you do? 

[00:28:41] Matt Abrahams: So I think a taser is, no, the, um, the way, it’s all about relevance, right? Senior leaders are, have a lot going on, and I’m not giving them excuses by any means, but they have a lot going on. And so you have to make sure that it’s relevant. And a lot of the time, we give a lot of superfluous information that’s not required. My mother has this saying that I love, I know she didn’t create it, I don’t know who did.

[00:29:03] But her saying is, tell me the time, don’t build me the clock. And a lot of us, when we talk to people, especially senior leaders, we do a lot of clock building. We give them all the background, and they need the bottom line up front. Here’s what’s relevant. Here’s what’s important. They can then ask you questions about the, how you built the clock.

[00:29:22] So I think the, key to getting people involved, regardless of if they’re senior leaders or not, is make it relevant and salient to them. How do you do that? Well, you have to spend time understanding what’s important to them. A lot of us think about what’s important to us, but what’s important to them? And then maybe using questions or using stories to get them engaged and interested will help as well. 

[00:29:43] Kim Scott: You know, it’s so interesting. I, when I worked at Google, I taught this class called Email Haiku, and that was basically the idea. It’s like, if it doesn’t fit in, and we had like little Blackberry’s, we didn’t, 

[00:29:54] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, yeah, you’re dating yourself, but yes, 

[00:29:57] Kim Scott: I’m dating myself. If it doesn’t fit into the little screen, um, and by the way, remember, your boss may be older and maybe is using big font. Uh, so a really little screen, uh, increase the size of your font, then they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna read it. And I adopted the same sort of approach to in person communication. I try to always be extremely succinct. 

[00:30:24] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:30:24] Kim Scott: And then when I got to Apple, my boss told me that I had gotten so brief that it felt rude to him. 

[00:30:33] Matt Abrahams: Oh, interesting. Yeah. 

[00:30:35] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. So it is, it’s important to like, 

[00:30:39] Matt Abrahams: What a gift. Yeah. What a gift that, that, that boss gave you is to say, hey, now you can add a little color commentary to it.

[00:30:45] Kim Scott: Yeah. So you can tell some stories, humanize yourself. 

[00:30:48] Matt Abrahams: Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. 

[00:30:50] Kim Scott: Yeah. So, should we talk about the bloviating BSer? 

[00:30:55] Matt Abrahams: Yes, I just like saying bloviating BSer. What would you like to talk about that? I have been accused occasionally by my teenagers of being a bloviator BSer. 

[00:31:04] Kim Scott: Well, you know, the only people in your life who really want to give you feedback are your teenagers. And, you know, they’re right about a lot of things, but they’re definitely not right about everything. 

[00:31:14] Matt Abrahams: They could work on their delivery too. 

[00:31:16] Kim Scott: Yes, yes, exactly. Uh, so anyway, uh, so here is what happens often on a team, speaking of not listening, that there will be a couple of people on every team who tend to hog all the airtime on the team. They talk, you know, if there’s five people in a meeting, they talk sixty percent of the time. And then other people, not, and there’s so much evidence that shows when everyone on a team talks, roughly the same amount, the team does better. So the bloviating BSer really hurts the team’s ability to do well.

[00:31:49] And invariably, the bloviating BSer is someone who is from a power dominant group. There was a great article in the Washington Post, I believe, a few years ago. They did this study where they showed, they asked people if, how, what their level of expertise was on one of five different math topics. And one of the math topics was not a topic. It was just made up. It sounded like it might be an area of math. But it was completely made up. 

[00:32:21] And rich people were much more likely to say they knew all about that topic than people who are not rich. Um, white people were more likely to know all about that topic than people who are not white. And men were more likely to know all about that topic than people who are not men. So, the tendency to BS and to pretend that we know what we don’t know goes up the more power that we have. And there I do mean power. 

[00:32:49] Matt Abrahams: Right, right. 

[00:32:50] Kim Scott: Uh, and that is why I’m ambivalent about power. So how can you make sure that when you’re thinking faster and talking smarter, you’re not falling prey to the tendency to be the bloviating BSer? And how, , if you have someone on your team who is, uh, bullshitting in a bloviating way, uh, how can you get a word in edgewise? 

[00:33:14] Matt Abrahams: Yes. So, the whole point of Think Faster, Talk Smarter is in the moment, be concise and clear. So it’s built into the methodology to be focused. In fact, I have a chapter called the F word of communication and it’s not the naughty one. I know you thought of Kim. It’s focus, be focused. 

[00:33:33] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:33:33] Matt Abrahams: And in our, in the way we communicate today, concision is critical. You have to be concise. You have to be clear. And so, the methodology in and of itself is devised to, to avoid the bloviating. To avoid, 

[00:33:47] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:33:48] Matt Abrahams: Leveraging, if you do have access to the power that you talked about, to avoid leaning into that, in fact, listening is better. So, uh, for example, how do you do that? Well, a couple things. Have a clear goal to what you’re saying. We talked about goals a little earlier. To me, a goal has three parts. Information, emotion, and action. What is it you want to get across? That’s the information. How do you want people to feel about it? And what do you want them to do?

[00:34:11] If you think that way, as you’re speaking in, a planned or spontaneous situation, it helps focus your message. Many times when we’re speaking spontaneously, we’re discovering what we want to say as we’re saying it. And we take people on that journey and that can take a long time. That’s like working against concision.

[00:34:28] So be focused, be concise, have a clear goal. Prioritize what you’re saying. Now, if you were in a conversation where somebody is bloviating and BSing, you need to shut them down. And so a couple of things, one, have ground rules before you go into these circumstances where everybody’s voice is valued. We want to hear everybody. That gives you some air cover to call out people. So you could say, 

[00:34:56] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:34:56] Matt Abrahams: I’m hearing a lot from you, Kim. I’d love to hear from some other folks. Another way to do it is to shut them down. And how do you insert yourself? One, again, I sound like a broken record. Paraphrasing is the most polite way I know to shut somebody up.

[00:35:11] If they’re bloviating, highlight something of value they’ve said. Name it and then move on. So I could say, hey Kim, that point about the implementation plan, really important. I’m curious, what do others think? Or the next step of our agenda mentions that. So I validate something you’ve said, and then I move forward. Now that can feel awkward when the person has higher status, higher power. 

[00:35:30] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:35:30] Matt Abrahams: But remember your credibility is being judged not only by what you do, but what you don’t do. So the rest of the group might be, you know, my kids play way too many video games. They have life points above their character’s heads. 

[00:35:42] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah.

[00:35:43] Matt Abrahams: You have a credibility points above your head, and if you’re not interceding in a circumstance where somebody is taking too much air time, your credibility points in view of everybody else are going down. So, we need to use paraphrasing, uh, you can ask a question of other people. Uh, you could say, hey, that’s a really important point about the implementation plan. How many of the rest of you have that in your view? So that way of interrupting, I think is the most polite way and it brings you back to focus. 

[00:36:11] Kim Scott: Yes. Yeah. I think that is such helpful advice. I once worked with, uh, with a professor who said that when there was one person dominating a room, I was, when I was teaching managing at Apple, Uh, and Richard Tedlow, who was a colleague of mine, uh, said, one thing you can do is you can actually walk closer.

[00:36:34] Matt Abrahams: Yes. Oh yeah. 

[00:36:36] Kim Scott: And your instinct is to walk away, but if you walk closer, they tend to be, they tend to pipe down. 

[00:36:43] Matt Abrahams: Let me double down on that, Kim. So I, when I left high tech and I worked in high tech for over a decade, I taught high school for two years before I graduated to now at Stanford GSB. But, uh, you learn a lot about life as a high school teacher. 

[00:36:56] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah.

[00:36:57] Matt Abrahams: And one of the things you learn to manage a classroom is you approach the challenge, right? So if students are talking or they’re not, you, ’cause we’ve learned most of us respond when the voice gets louder and closer, we stop, right? 

[00:37:10] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:37:10] Matt Abrahams: Uh, now virtually it’s a little harder to do, and that’s where you can leverage private chats and other things where you could say, hey, I really like what you’re saying here, but let’s make sure other people have some room to contribute. And so there are ways to do it non verbally, uh, that isn’t so public that can be helpful to you. 

[00:37:26] Kim Scott: Yeah, there’s also tools, I think, if it’s a virtual situation, there are tools that actually measure everyone’s airtime. 

[00:37:34] Matt Abrahams: Absolutely. There’s a great tool I like, and it’s a tool called, and it plugs into Zoom and other things, where it’ll actually tell you your talk time, it’ll tell you your vocal intensity, filler words. And it’s very useful because it’s hard to keep track of how much time you’re speaking because you’re so involved in what you’re doing. 

[00:37:54] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. There’s another book called STFU. 

[00:37:58] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:37:59] Kim Scott: Lots of advice. 

[00:38:00] Matt Abrahams: Dan Lyons is great. 

[00:38:02] Kim Scott: Yeah. I love Dan Lyons. 

[00:38:04] Matt Abrahams: I interviewed him on Think Fast, Talk Smart, the podcast I do, uh, which you will be a guest on very soon. Thank you. Um, and he talks about some wonderful ways to, one, self recognize that you talk too much, and then, two, what to do to get yourself to be quiet.

[00:38:17] Kim Scott: Yeah. So Robinson says, I took an improv, uh, class once, and the phrase, yes, and, has been huge in my communication. It was scary to sign up for improv, but I’m glad I did. Anyone thinking about it, just do it. You’ll be glad you did. So I wonder if there’s an improv class that, that you, uh, recommend folks take.

[00:38:37] Matt Abrahams: So, uh, so first, thank you for saying that. Improvisation is so powerful in helping people become better communicators, and I would argue better people. 

[00:38:46] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:38:46] Matt Abrahams: I rely a lot on wisdom from improvisation. I have some, uh, mentors in improv, Adam Tobin, Dan Klein. These are folks who are amazing. Um, there’s a great book, a great place to start by Patricia Ryan Madson. It’s called Improv Wisdom. Short little book, fundamentally changed my life. The way I approach things, uh, amazing. Look for improv classes around your area. Now being affiliated with Stanford’s Continuing Studies program offers classes in improv. You can take them from anywhere around the world if they fit into your time. I highly recommend it. Improv is not about being funny. Improv is about thinking fast on your feet, respecting others, and really learning how to be present oriented. It is an incredibly valuable skill. 

[00:39:30] Kim Scott: Yeah. In fact, we developed a sort of a Radical Candor sitcom with Second City based on, 

[00:39:36] Matt Abrahams: Oh, I love it! Yeah. 

[00:39:38] Kim Scott: It’s called The Feedback Loop. So if you want to see where Radical Candor meets improv, you can check out The Feedback Loop on the Radical Candor, uh, website. I love, 

[00:39:47] Matt Abrahams: Oh, I’m definitely checking that out. 

[00:39:49] Kim Scott: It was really, really fun to do. Um, uh, so a lot of people are excited about So that’s good. 

[00:39:59] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, yeah. No, there are other tools like that, but it’s a great tool. It can really help you make sure you put the D on it. I’m going to tell you a funny story, Kim. Um, I mentioned this to a coaching client cause I do some coaching. I said, you should use this tool. It’s really going to help you be more comfortable and confident speaking.

[00:40:14] If you don’t put the D in poised, it goes to, which is adult diapers. And so he wrote back and said, this is how you want me to be more comfortable speaking? So it got me in hot water with a client. So you got to be careful with that one.

[00:40:27] Kim Scott: Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk about interrupting because I think that it is an often misunderstood topic.

[00:40:35] Matt Abrahams: Right. So there’s obviously doing the interruption. We talked a little bit about that, how to get people back on track, how to move things forward. I think paraphrasing and questioning are good ways to do it. Being interrupted can be challenging and hard and many people get interrupted for lots of reasons. Some of which are, I, it just pains me. Um, when you are interrupted, it is important, I believe to make sure that the interrupter knows that it’s not appropriate. Now, how and when you do that, I think is up to you. You have to make that call, um, but you need to assert your position and your point of view.

[00:41:14] And if somebody is jumping on that, reclaiming it is important. And again, I think you can do it politely with paraphrasing. If somebody interrupts, you can say, yeah, that point, right. But let’s get back to the point I was making. So, being active in it, and I certainly don’t mean to be blaming the victim here by any means, but we need to make sure our voices are heard, and we have to assert those voices, and if somebody’s trying to take the space away from us to do that, we need to claim that space back, and you can do it by paraphrasing, you can do it by asking questions, you can do it by saying, hey, I wasn’t done, I need to finish my thought.

[00:41:50] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:41:51] Matt Abrahams: And it’s important to do. 

[00:41:52] Kim Scott: I think that is really great advice. I also think that, I’ve worked, I was working with one team and they were, they had become so paranoid about not interrupting each other that they were no longer having conversations. They were having, it was like always going around the room. And so I think we want to make sure that we don’t get so worried about not, like, I was, I was on a podcast with a man, and he was so afraid of like being accused of mansplaining or something, that he wouldn’t challenge me. And he wouldn’t, you know, I had to like wait a long time. I think we like need to get a little looser about, uh, I think we, it’s complicated, as all, as everything is. 

[00:42:36] Matt Abrahams: Yeah, it is complicated for sure. I would say look for patterns. You know, if one, if you’re interrupted once in the midst of a flow of a dialogue and conversation, I think that’s different than somebody who’s constantly interrupting you or constantly interrupting others. And I think you treat it differently. 

[00:42:51] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:42:51] Matt Abrahams: But you know, creativity, collaboration involves engaged conversation. And some of that conversation will step on top of other people. I do think we need to have those who are responsible for facilitation or leading, manage some of that, to look at it. Because it’s hard for us to look at the bigger picture when we’re so engaged and it’s helpful for somebody to say, hey, you know, I’m really hearing from this side of the room. I’d love to hear from over there a little bit. 

[00:43:15] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah.

[00:43:15] Matt Abrahams: You know, just to bring those voices out. The subtle orchestra conducting that all of us can do in conversation I think is really important. 

[00:43:24] Kim Scott: Yeah. And sometimes if the person is obliviating BSer, you have to interrupt. 

[00:43:28] Matt Abrahams: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, no, interrupting is a tool. It’s a tool. 

[00:43:32] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. So isn’t it inefficient if a meeting with six people and it spends most of the time with all of them paraphrasing one another. So I don’t think that’s what you’re recommending, but it’s a good, uh, it’s a good question. 

[00:43:46] Matt Abrahams: Yeah. Obviously, paraphrasing is one of many tools and you don’t need to paraphrase everything. It is just a tool to utilize, and many people aren’t comfortable using. That’s why I’m emphasizing it so much. 

[00:43:57] Kim Scott: Uh, there’s a saying that in business, an employee will never be honest until they have nothing to lose. How can you be radically candid when in most cases the environment isn’t safe? And I think that my answer to that is always start with soliciting feedback and then rewarding the candor when you get it. You’ve got to prove to people that it is safe, especially if you’re a leader. Because they’ve been, a lot of people have been in cases where it wasn’t safe to speak up. And so, especially if you’re a leader, you need to make it safe to speak up. 

[00:44:28] Matt Abrahams: Amen. Amen. I agree completely with that.

[00:44:31] Kim Scott: So I think we got just another couple of minutes. Is there any advice for non English native speakers? 

[00:44:39] Matt Abrahams: Yes. 

[00:44:40] Kim Scott: This is important. 

[00:44:41] Matt Abrahams: Oh, it is so important. So important. We are in a global world, where multiple languages are spoken. Not everybody is speaking in their native language. I am in awe of my students, the people I coach and teach, who are non native speakers. I struggle with my native language often. 

[00:44:57] So, uh, a few things I’ll share. One, this is such an important topic to me that we started on my podcast, Think Fast, Talk Smart, with every episode now. We are releasing English language learning content, where we take a noun, a verb, a modifier, and an idiom that is mentioned in the podcast and post it for people to actually get better at language. So one is we all have to work to improve. 

[00:45:21] Second, we have to really in, as communicators who are speaking in a native language, we need to make sure that we reduce jargon, that we reduce, um, acronyms, that we help everybody, not just non native speakers, understand us by language choice. But I also think what’s really important is, as communicators, both as non native speakers and native speakers of the language, make your point and then support them, repeat yourself, essentially, by using a different example.

[00:45:50] So I might make a point and then tell a story. Kim is great at this. She makes a point and then she gives you an example. And if you didn’t understand the point, you understand it through the example. So it’s a form of repetition. That actually helps clarify what’s being said. And that’s helpful regardless of if you’re speaking the same language or not.

[00:46:08] So it’s really important for all of us to help with fidelity, to help with understanding, to make our points and support them with story, anecdotes, analogies, testimonials. Those are all ways of reinforcing your point. 

[00:46:24] Kim Scott: And I think I like to use jargon and colorful language. And, uh, and sometimes that can be hard for people, like bloviating BS is a perfect example of that. 

[00:46:34] Matt Abrahams: Yeah.

[00:46:35] Kim Scott: A lot of people, even people who are native English speakers probably don’t know what that is. 

[00:46:40] Matt Abrahams: Bloviate isn’t a common word. 

[00:46:41] Kim Scott: Bloviate is not a common word. I love it because it sounds kind of, it’s kind of onomatopoetic. 

[00:46:46] Matt Abrahams: Yes, exactly. When you use that term, and I’m interrupting you here, but Kim, when you use that term, you made very clear what you were talking about. So even if I didn’t understand those, what obloviating BSer is, it was clear to me, it was somebody, I think you literally said, somebody who takes all the air in the room. 

[00:47:03] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:47:03] Matt Abrahams: Right? So you defined it for us, and that’s exactly what I’m talking about. 

[00:47:08] Kim Scott: And I think allowing, creating a situation where it’s safe for people to interrupt and say, I don’t know what that means. Like, the more we can do to make it safe to say, I don’t know, and to encourage everyone, like, I think those are, that phrase, I don’t know, is I think one, one of the most valuable phrases in any, uh, in any language. In English or in, in any other language, I don’t know. 

[00:47:36] Matt Abrahams: Right. 

[00:47:37] Kim Scott: Like in every language.

[00:47:40] Matt Abrahams: You are so multilingual. I couldn’t give examples, but I think you’re right. I think it’s, and what’s embedded in I don’t know is I want to know. Right? 

[00:47:49] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:47:49] Matt Abrahams: So it invites this connection. It invites this way of us working together and collaborating. So I think that is so important to learn to feel comfortable with that. It’s okay not to know everything. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. That’s how things change. 

[00:48:03] Kim Scott: Yes. Yes. Uh, we have to be open to the fact that we might not say the perfect thing. And that others won’t either. Assuming good intent also helps. Yes. I love, I think that’s the perfect note to end on. One of the things that I advise people is to make all hour long meetings fifty minutes.

[00:48:23] So we’re now two minutes over so that we have time to get on the phone and talk to each other afterwards. Or maybe go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Take care of ourselves. All right. So, Matt, thank you so much. Everyone, thank you for joining us. Get a copy of Matt’s book. 

[00:48:42] Matt Abrahams: Kim, it was a true pleasure to speak with you. Uh, people might not know this, but Kim and I are actually neighbors. We go on walks together and have these types of conversations. Uh, it was wonderful to invite others in. And on my Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast on September 5th, you get to hear Kim answer the questions, not ask them. 

[00:48:59] Kim Scott: Excellent. Thank you all so much. This was great. 

[00:49:02] Matt Abrahams: Thank you.



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Improvising Radical Candor, a partnership between Radical Candor and Second City Works, introduces The Feedback Loop (think Groundhog Day meets The Office), a 5-episode workplace comedy series starring David Alan Grier that brings to life Radical Candor’s simple framework for navigating candid conversations.

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The Radical Candor Podcast is based on the book Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.

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Episodes are written and produced by Brandi Neal with script editing by Amy Sandler. The show features Radical Candor co-founders Kim Scott and Jason Rosoff and is hosted by Amy Sandler. Nick Carissimi is our audio engineer.

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