Talk Lean by Alan H Palmer - book reviewLet’s not beat about the bush – that is the purpose of this book. Alan Palmer gives examples of how we often don’t get straight to the point, which creates mistrust.

“The British are usually so concerned with not ruffling feathers or hurting the other fellow’s feelings,” he says, “that if we’ve got something difficult to say we end up beating around the bush by using what we believe to be politeness and courtesy.”

The author points out that common British conversational phrases don’t mean what they suggest. “He says, ‘I agree with you up to a point…’ does not mean ‘we’re almost there’ but, ‘I disagree with almost everything you’ve said.’

“‘With the greatest respect’ implies no respect at all and should be interpreted as meaning, ‘You’re a complete idiot.’”

Alan Palmer is a graduate of Oxford and INSEAD. His writing in this book is inspired by the company he works for, Interactifs, which trains professionals around the world. The company was founded by Philippe de Lapoyade.

The knowledge basis for Talk Lean

This is an excerpt from the preface of the book, which explains the basis of knowledge that drives the book.

“Try the following simple experiment. Ask a dozen people in your circle of friends, acquaintances and colleagues, with as much diversity as possible, to answer this question.

“If someone approaches you to ask you for something or to tell you something, how do you want things to be said, how do you like the other person to speak to you?

“Write their answers down in two columns, one for ‘content’ and one for ‘manner’.

“I am confident that their answers will be almost exactly the same as those in the chart.”


  • clear
  • direct
  • straight to the point
  • simple
  • precise
  • concise
  • concrete
  • etc


  • polite
  • calm
  • respectful
  • courteous
  • warm
  • with honour if possible
  • etc

Another one of the author’s key points early in the book is this. “If the other person thinks that he or she knows what you want from them but they haven’t heard you say it, they will be suspicious of you.

“Sometimes the failure to reveal intentions at the beginning of the meeting is the result of over-sensitivity, an excess of what is thought to be ‘respect’, but which is actually nothing of the sort. True respect for the other person necessarily involves telling them right at the outset precisely what you hope to obtain from them.’

There’s a Talk Lean website if you want to explore further.