Psychology, Emotion and Intuition in Work Relationships: The Head, Heart and Gut Professional

Henry Brown, Neil Dawson, Brenda McHugh

Routledge, £105 (hardback), £24.99 (paperback)


I wish that this book had been available nearly 40 years ago when I took my first faltering steps into the solicitors’ profession. It has taken me almost that long to understand finally that each problem to be resolved needs to include a detailed analysis of the relevant audience and a consequent approach which is tailored to the needs of that particular audience. 

In a litigious context, it is perhaps obvious that the tone, pitch and content of every piece of writing must be adapted, depending on whether the recipient is a client, an opposing law firm, counsel, a judge, a tribunal or even the press. But is it so obvious that a finance director, an in-house lawyer, a board member within a client, all need to be communicated with in quite different ways, appreciating that each audience may be interested in different aspects of an issue? 

Does a professional really understand how important it is to be a chameleon? To look into the mirror before going into a meeting or on to a telephone call and to ask the question ‘Who am I going to be today?’ This terrific book, by a distinguished mix of lawyer, psychotherapist, lecturer and mediator, should be top of the reading list for those operating in any service sector. Many may also find it helpful in their everyday lives. Chapters such as: understanding personality; enhancing professional relationships; negotiation; and difficult people give a hint of the treats in store. 

The much overused word ‘empathy’ is properly defined as ‘the ability to sense and understand other persons’ emotions and to imagine what he or she might be thinking or feeling. One does not lose oneself in the other’s world, but rather one retains a sense of self and objectivity while recognising their experience. You place yourselves in their shoes, but you are not them’. The book could easily have descended into platitudes, but instead focuses on the practical and pragmatic.

For those of a scientific leaning, there are technical explanations of why people act in the way they do, not just how to deal with the external and often surprising manifestations. Enjoy.

Simon Davis is vice-president of the Law Society and a partner at Clifford Chance