Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques

Stanford GSB

Join Matt Abrahams, a lecturer of Strategic Communication at Stanford Graduate School of Business, as he sits down with experts in the field to discuss real-world challenges. How do I send my message clearly when put on the spot? How do I write emails to get my point across? How can I easily convey complex information? How do I manage my reputation? Whether you’re giving a toast or presenting in a meeting, communication is critical to success in business and in life.Think Fast, Talk Smart provides the tools, techniques, and best practices to help you communicate more effectively.

  • 19 minutes 6 seconds
    146. Stress Resets: How to Change Your Internal Dialogue to Communicate Better

    Stress can get in the way of our communication with others. To manage our stress, psychologist Jenny Taitz says, we first need to adjust the conversations that we have with ourselves.

    Taitz is an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of several books, including Stress Resets: How to Soothe Your Body and Mind in Minutes. According to her, much of the stress we experience is self-created through negative thought patterns and harsh self-criticism. “We're doing this to ourselves all the time,” she says. But as we become aware of these unhelpful mental loops, Taitz’ “resets” can help us disrupt them and reframe self-talk in more productive ways

    In addition to changing our self-talk, Taitz offers tools for refreshing our communication with others. In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, she and host Matt Abrahams explore her G.I.V.E. framework — how being gentle, interested, validating, and easy-mannered equips us for more positive conversations with ourselves and others

    Episode Reference Links:

    • Jenny Taitz: Website 
    • Jenny’s Book: Website 
    • Communicator Jenny admires: Sharon Salzberg 
    • Ep.69 Feeling Nervous? How Anxiety Can Fuel Better Communication: YouTube / Website 
    • Ep.122 How to Be More Confident and Calm in Your Communication: Managing the "ABC’s" of...: Youtube



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abrahams introduces guest Jenny Taitz, a clinical psychologist and an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at UCLA.

    (00:00:51) Understanding the Stress Cycle

    Explanation of the stress cycle, highlighting common mistakes in stress management.

    (00:02:38) Practical Tips for Managing Stress

    Advice on resetting the mind, body, and behavior to manage stress more effectively.

    (00:05:50) Addressing Overthinking and Rumination

    Techniques for reducing overthinking and rumination, and recognizing and redirecting unproductive thought patterns.

    (00:08:45) Swapping "Why" for "How"

    Benefits of changing one's internal dialogue from "why" to "how" questions, facilitating a more proactive and less stressful mindset.

    (00:10:56) Communicating Empathy

    Introduction to the GIVE acronym, a method to help improve empathetic communication.

    (00:12:58) The Final Three Questions

    Jenny shares her personal methods for managing stress, a communicator she admires, and three ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:17:33) Conclusion

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    11 June 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 15 minutes 19 seconds
    145. Best of: The Art of Negotiation, How to Get More of What You Want

    Whether we realize it or not, we negotiate everyday. But when we approach these situations as a win-or-lose battle, we’re already showing resistance, and setting ourselves up for difficulty. But what if you reframed the whole idea, to think of a negotiation not as a fight, but as a problem-solving exercise involving emotions?

    In this episode of Think Fast, Talk SmartMatt Abrahams speaks with Stanford GSB Professor Emeritus Margaret Neale about what she has learned in her decades of researching negotiation and the steps that lead to more collaborative problem-solving.

    Listen as Neale shares tips on how to approach negotiations with intention, and what strategies can help us more easily communicate our wants and needs. She is the coauthor of Getting (More of) What You Want: How the Secrets of Economics and Psychology Can Help You Negotiate Anything, in Business and in Life.

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abrahams introduces guest Maggie Neale, the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management Emerita at Stanford GSB

    (00:01:22) Definition of Negotiation

    Negotiation as collaborative problem-solving, emphasizing mutual benefit over adversarial tactics

    (00:04:28) Planning and Preparation

    Strategies for preparing for negotiations, including understanding alternatives and setting a reservation price.

    (00:08:41) Structuring Negotiation Messages

    Structuring negotiation messages, including the concept of chunking multiple issues together.

    (00:10:17) Role of Emotion in Negotiation 

    How different emotions influence thinking and the importance of managing emotions in negotiation.

    (00:11:31) Best Communication Advice

    Maggie shares her best communication advice, a communicator she admires, and ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:14:34) Conclusion

    Think Fast, Talk Smart is a podcast produced by Stanford Graduate School of Business and hosted by Matt Abrahams. Each episode provides concrete, easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help you hone and enhance your communication.

    See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

    4 June 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 21 minutes 14 seconds
    144. Communicating Through Conflict: How to Get Along with Anyone

    Many of us would rank getting along with colleagues as an important aspect of work, but, as Amy Gallo explains, relationships devoid of disagreement can actually be less productive. 

    “While our natural human instinct is to avoid conflict, I believe that conflicts are not only an inevitable part of interacting with other humans, but they're a necessary part.”

    Gallo is a workplace expert, host of HBR’s Women at Work podcast, and the author of Getting Along: How to Work With Anyone. Across her work, Gallo touts that the key to transforming conflicts into something productive is to understand its root cause and learn how to reframe them. 

    “Even at the base of those unhealthy conflicts or those unproductive conflicts is something that needs to be resolved,” she says. 

    In her conversation with host and strategic communications lecturer Matt Abrahams, Gallo provides useful frameworks and new concepts on how we can approach conflicts at work.  

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Matt Abrahams introduces guest Amy Gallo, a workplace expert on communication and conflict.

    (00:01:00) The Role of Conflict in the Workplace

    The benefits of conflict in professional settings and why not having enough conflict can be detrimental.

    (00:02:26) Facilitating Effective Conflict

    Strategies for creating productive conflict and the importance of normalizing conflict.

    (00:04:45) Frameworks for Navigating Unhealthy Conflict

    Detailed framework for addressing and transforming unhealthy conflicts into productive discussions.

    (00:11:56) The Power of Workplace Friendships

    How workplace friendships can enhance job performance and personal satisfaction.

    (00:14:01) Balancing Friendships and Professional Boundaries

    Advice on maintaining effective relationships without compromising professional integrity or favoritism.

    (00:16:53) The Final Three Questions

    Amy shares a conflict she handled effectively, a communicator she admires, and her recipe for successful communication.

    (00:20:01) Conclusion

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    28 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 19 minutes 57 seconds
    143. Adopting a VC Mindset: How to Achieve More by Thinking, and Communicating, Like a Venture Capitalist

    In choosing who to date, what job to pursue, or how to invest our money, most people are just looking for a reason to move forward. But according to Professor Ilya Strebulaev, we should be looking for something else: a reason to bail.

    "The smartest venture capitalists ask a very different question from what most of us ask," says Strebulaev. Instead of asking “‘Why should we invest?’, venture capitalists approach every new opportunity with [the] question: Why should we not proceed?” This contrarian mindset is at the heart of Strebulaev's new book The Venture Mindset, which reveals how the strategies of top VCs can help anyone make sharper decisions. 

    In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, Strebulaev joins host Matt Abrahams to discuss how the venture mindset can help anyone — investor or not — weigh alternatives, make decisions, and move forward without looking back.

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abrahams introduces guest Ilya Strebulaev, founder of the GSB's Venture Capital Initiative and professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

    (00:00:53) The Venture Mindset

    Insights into the venture mindset as a new mental model for making smarter, quicker decisions.

    (00:02:22) Embracing Failure

    How venture capitalists embrace and learn from failure to achieve success.

    (00:05:21) Decision-Making in Venture Capital

    A unique approach to decision making based on what successful venture capitalists do.

    (00:07:34) Applying Venture Principles in Personal and Professional Life

    Venture mindset principles that can help individuals in job transitions and personal growth.

    (00:10:05) Lessons from Teaching Venture Capital

    Ilya outlines key takeaways he hopes his students learn from his class, including thinking differently and networking effectively.

    (00:13:25) Passionate Communication

    Using descriptive language to engage others, including mixing familiar terms with unique ones to enhance communication about passions

    (00:15:29) The Final Three Questions

    Ilya shares how he has grown from writing his book, a communicator he admires, and three ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:18:59) Conclusion

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    21 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 34 minutes 1 second
    142. Power and Persuasion: Live Insights from Stanford Experts

    A special live edition from the Me2We event at Stanford, where strategic communications expert and podcast host Matt Abrahams joins four distinguished faculty members from Stanford Graduate School of Business:

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Producer Jenny Luna and host Matt Abrahams introduce a live episode featuring four Stanford GSB faculty members.

    (00:01:40) Navigating Conflicts and Negotiations in Diverse Settings

    Michelle Gelfand discusses managing conflicts and negotiations in broader societal and cultural contexts.

    (00:04:51) Understanding and Managing Diversity

    Brian Lowery introduces the Stanford Institute on Race and outlines strategies for leaders to foster inclusivity and manage diverse workforces.

    (00:07:57) Dynamics of Power and Influence

    Deborah Gruenfeld shares the implications of power dynamics and how they shift from virtual to in-person interactions.

    (00:14:04) Persuasion and Effective Communication

    Zakary Tormala gives insight into the use of pronouns in persuasive communication and the impact of language in shaping audience engagement.

    (00:18:44) Acting with Power in Interactions

    Deborah Gruenfeld discusses her ongoing research on how power dynamics influence investor decisions in startup teams.

    (00:20:47) The Pursuit of Meaningfulness

    Brian Lowery talks about his current focus on what makes life meaningful.

    (00:24:14) Cultural Tightness and Looseness

    Michelle Gelfand explains her research on how cultures manage norms and rules, and the concept of "tight" and "loose" cultures.

    (00:28:52) Persuasive Communication

    Zakary Tormala shares insights from his latest research on framing effects in communication.

    (00:32:13) Participant Reflections

    A Stanford LEAD participant shares experiences from Brian Lowery's class, emphasizing the importance of perspective-taking and trust in leadership.

    (00:33:15) Conclusion

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    14 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 20 minutes 57 seconds
    141. An Invitation for Innovation: Why Creativity Is Found, Not Forced

    So you want to lead your team toward innovation. Does that require that you know where you’re going? Not according to Linda Hill.

    Hill is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School whose research focuses on leadership and how organizations achieve innovation. When it comes to generating breakthrough ideas, Hill says it’s less about a creative vision and more about stepping into the unknown. “Innovation [is] not about an individual coming up with a new idea,” she says. “Instead, innovation is the result of the collaboration of people with diverse expertise and diverse perspectives coming together, being able to collaborate, being able to experiment together and learn.”

    In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, Hill and host Matt Abrahams discuss how leaders can foster cultures and environments where innovation thrives — where teams use communication and collaboration to “co-create the future.”

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abrahams introduces guest Linda Hill, an expert in leadership development and innovation from Harvard Business School.

    (00:01:10) Leading for Innovation vs. Leading for Change

    Fundamental differences between leading for innovation and for change, and the unique challenges required for innovation.

    (00:02:53) Creating a Culture of Innovation

    The essential components of a culture that promotes innovation, with focus on communication and collaboration.

    (00:06:21) The Role of Shared Values and Purpose in Innovation

    Shared values, and the distinction between vision and purpose within innovative organizations.

    (00:09:43) Communication's Impact on Innovation

    How effective communication facilitates innovation, including strategies for engaging diverse teams and the significance of storytelling.

    (00:14:30) Conflict and Creativity in Collaborative Environments

    The value of conflict in innovation, and how managing disagreements and diverse viewpoints can lead to more creative solutions.

    (00:16:06) The Final Three Questions

    Linda Hill shares practices to foster collaboration with others, a communicator she admires, and her ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:19:54) Conclusion

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    7 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 16 minutes 19 seconds
    140. Best of: How to Handle a Skeptical Audience

    Preparing to speak in front of a skeptical audience is more than thinking about objections beforehand – there are specific techniques you can use to respond to these challenging situations without sounding defensive, evasive, or dismissive. Here, we offer a few key tips for how to handle skepticism with aplomb.

    In this podcast, host Matt Abrahams and Stanford GSB lecturer Burt Alper share how to prepare for these challenges from your audience and discuss the importance of tactics like acknowledging audience input, reframing responses, and how to remain cool, collected, and credible.

    Episode Reference Links:

    • Burt Alper: Website
    • Stanford Profile: Website 
    • Ep.102 Create a Presence: How to Communicate in a Way Others Can Feel: WebsiteYouTube 
    • Ep.70 Keep ’Em Coming: Why Your First Ideas Aren’t Always the Best: Website / YouTube 
    • Original Episode - Ep.5 From Monologue to Dialogue: How to Handle a Skeptical Audience: Website / YouTube



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abrahams introduces the episode and guest Burt Alper, a fellow strategic communication lecturer at Stanford GSB

    (00:00:55) Handling Direct Objections

    Confronting direct objections during presentations, particularly in professional settings like executive meetings or at the GSB.

    (00:02:37) Preparation for Objections

    The importance of preparation when anticipating objections and strategies for foreseeing potential pushbacks.

    (00:03:50) Emotional vs. Logical Objections

    Distinctions between emotional and logical objections and how these types of objections manifest in conversations.

    (00:06:09) The Power of Reframing

    The technique of reframing in objection handling and altering the context of a conversation to address concerns without conceding.

    (00:08:17) The Role of Paraphrasing

    Paraphrasing as a critical skill for clarifying and addressing objections, with the benefits of accurately restating concerns to ensure mutual understanding.

    (00:12:11) The Final Three Questions

    Burt Alper shares the best communication advice he’s received, a communicator he admires, and his ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:14:55) Conclusion

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    30 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 17 minutes 21 seconds
    139. Lose Yourself: The Secret to Finding Flow and Being Fully Present

    Whether you're looking to boost your productivity, find more joy in your work, or simply be more present in the moment, you need flow — and research by Assistant Professor David Melnikoff could help you find it.

    Melnikoff investigates how we pursue our goals, and how flow — the state of being totally immersed and engaged in what we’re doing — can help us achieve them. According to him, flow isn’t necessarily about enjoying a task or activity for its own sake, but more about the process of discovery that unfolds as we take action in the face of uncertainty. “The source of flow is engaging in an activity that allows you to reduce uncertainty about your future, engaging in actions that reduce possible future outcomes, or ideally, eliminate all possible future outcomes except for one,” he says. With each action that we take, the path before us narrows, leading us more directly to the goal that we’ve set.

    In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, Melnikoff shares why uncertainty presents us with the opportunity to step into the flow state, to experience more focus and engagement, and to supercharge our goal pursuit and performance

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Host Matt Abraham welcomes guest David Melnikoff, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford GSB and an expert on flow and goal achievement.

    (00:00:40) Understanding Flow and Its Benefits

    The definition of flow and the reversal of the usual dynamic of goal pursuit.

    (00:02:20) Achieving and Maintaining Flow

    Misconceptions about achieving flow and the role of reducing uncertainty in engaging activities. 

    (00:06:22) Flow in Business and Leadership

    Applying flow principles to business, emphasizing the structuring of tasks and goals to induce flow through uncertainty reduction. 

    (00:08:39) Personal Applications of Flow for Goal Pursuit

    How to utilize flow principles to set and achieve goals with advice on framing tasks to maximize uncertainty and flow. 

    (00:11:03) Collaborative Flow and Communication

    The potential for shared flow experiences in collaborative settings and the role of communication in facilitating flow.

    (00:13:05) Goal Setting and Achievement Advice

    Advice on goal setting, advocating for goals with a degree of uncertainty to enhance engagement and likelihood of entering a flow state.

    (00:14:43) The Final Three Questions

    David Melnikoff shares how he invites flow into his life, a communicator he admires, and his recipe for communication.

    (00:16:17) Conclusion

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    23 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 22 minutes 41 seconds
    138. Speak Your Truth: Why Authenticity Leads to Better Communication

    From the way you communicate, to the way build your life and career, Graham Weaver, MBA ’99, says it’s about “giving yourself permission to fully be yourself. You can never go wrong when you’re saying your truth.”

    Weaver is a lecturer in management, a GSB alum, and the founder and a partner of Alpine Investors. He stresses the importance of direct communication, highlighting how avoiding it can lead to wasted time, energy, and even financial losses. Reflecting on his own experiences in private equity, Weaver admits to struggling with being conflict-averse and not speaking his truth directly, which resulted in getting into bad deals and big losses for his company. “People think that by being indirect, they’re being kind, but all they're doing is creating confusion,” he says. “Clarity is compassionate. Even if it's not what they want to hear, the more direct and clear you can be, the more compassionate that is for the other person.”

    In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, Weaver and host Matt Abrahams explore how being true to oneself not only fosters personal fulfillment but also enables us to show up better for others. Authenticity and self-belief lay the foundation for effective communication, leadership, and ultimately, success.

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Matt Abrahams introduces guest Graham Weaver, a Stanford alum and lecturer in management at GSB.

    (00:0:43) Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Skills in Business

    How skills like understanding personal dreams and overcoming limiting beliefs play a critical role in business success.

    (00:04:58) Living an Asymmetrical Life

    Living an asymmetrical life, including the importance of doing hard things, pursuing your passions, committing long-term, and writing your own story.

    (00:10:10) Lessons from Taylor Swift

    Business and personal inspiration from Taylor Swift's response to professional setbacks, highlighting her work ethic and resilience.

    (00:13:04) Personal Growth and Enlightenment

    Graham’s journey towards enlightenment and the practices he adopts to improve his personal and professional life.

    (00:16:08) The Final Three Questions

    Graham shares what differentiates an exceptional from average leader, a communicator he admires and his ingredients for successful communication.

    (00:21:05) Conclusion

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    16 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 22 minutes 12 seconds
    137. When Words Aren’t Enough: How to Excel at Nonverbal Communication

    If communication is like painting, words are the primary colors. But to convey deeper meaning, we need a broader color palette, which Dana Carney says requires the mastery of nonverbal communication.

    We often focus on the words that we say when honing our communication, but according to Carney, there are many instances “where nonverbals start to be more meaningful than verbals.” A professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the George Quist Chair in Business Ethics, Carney researches the nonverbal ways in which we communicate our biases, our preferences, our power, and our status.

    As Carney explores in her forthcoming book, The Five Nonverbal Rules of Power, there are several key areas of nonverbal behavior that we need to grasp in order to fully tap our potential as communicators. In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart, she and host Matt Abrahams discuss how to read the nonverbal communication of others — and how to gain control of the nonverbals we express to the world.

    Think Fast, Talk Smart is a podcast produced by Stanford Graduate School of Business. Each episode provides concrete, easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help you hone and enhance your communication skills.

    Episode Reference Links:

    • Dana Carney: Website
    • Ep.12 - It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It: How to Communicate Power WebsiteYouTube 
    • Ep.16 - How to Craft Your Body Language When Confronting Objections Website / YouTube 



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Matt Abrahams introduces guest Dana Carney, an expert in nonverbal communication.

    (00:01:12) Understanding Nonverbal Communication

    Foundational aspects of nonverbal communication, dividing it into perception and expression, and emphasizing the importance of facial expressions and body language.

    (00:02:11) The Nonverbal Rules of Power

    How nonverbal communication influences perceptions of power and status and the concept of the "five nonverbal rules of power".

    (00:04:37) Cultural and Contextual Variations

    The impact of culture and context on nonverbal cues, discussing how cultural differences can alter the interpretation of behaviors such as eye contact and proximity.

    (00:08:10) The Balance Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

    Verbal versus nonverbal communication and its significance especially in contexts where honesty or bias might be in question.

    (00:09:15) Achieving Communication Goals Through Nonverbals

    How understanding nonverbal cues can help individuals achieve specific social interaction goals.

    (0012:51) Enhancing Nonverbal Communication Skills

    Practical advice for becoming more aware of one's nonverbal communication, including self-observation and seeking feedback from others.

    (00:16:13) The Final Three Questions

    Dana shares a nonverbal behavior that demonstrates confidence, a communicator she admires, and her recipe for successful communication.

    (00:21:09) Conclusion

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    9 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 23 minutes 49 seconds
    136. The Art of Disagreeing Without Conflict: Navigating the Nuance

    Disagreement and conflict may look the same on the surface, but the two concepts are, in fact, very different. According to Julia Minson, knowing how these notions differ is crucial to how you approach them. 

    In this episode of Think Fast Talk Smart, Minson and strategic communication lecturer Matt Abrahams delve into the intricacies of conflict and disagreement. Minson, an associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford University alumna, also shares her expertise on decision-making and conflict negotiation. Minson emphasizes the need for genuine curiosity and receptiveness in communication to foster productive dialogue.

    Think Fast, Talk Smart is a podcast produced by Stanford Graduate School of Business. Each episode provides concrete, easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help you hone and enhance your communication skills.

    Episode Reference Links:



    (00:00:00) Introduction

    Matt introduces guest Julia Minson, who is an expert in decision-making, conflict negotiation, and the psychology of disagreement.

    (00:00:54) Journey into Conflict and Disagreement Research

    Julia gives insight into her background and what led her to research disagreement and conflict.

    (00:01:55) Distinguishing Between Disagreement and Conflict

    The difference between disagreement and conflict, and why understanding this distinction is crucial for effective communication.

    (00:04:12) Strategies for Disagreeing Better

    Practical advice on how to disagree constructively without escalating to conflict, focusing on expressing and acting with curiosity.

    (00:07:05) Demonstrating Curiosity and Conversational Receptiveness

    Tactics for showing curiosity and conversational receptiveness, including using the HEAR acronym to maintain constructive dialogues.

    (00:14:38) Managing Conflict

    Managing and navigating conflict, emphasizing emotional readiness and the importance of choosing battles wisely.

    (00:18:25) The Final Three Questions

    Julia shares personal experiences with conflict and disagreement, a communicator she admires, and her recipe for successful communication.

    (00:22:48) Conclusion


    See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

    2 April 2024, 1:00 pm
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