Chapter 10: Professional conversations


Translated from the online collection catalogue of the Rijksmuseum:

Weaver’s workshop, Cornelis Gerritsz Decker, 1659. Two weavers are bent over a loom, engaged in a conversation. On the left a spinning wheel, on the right a cradle and household goods.

For all information provided in the online catalogue, click here, or on the picture above.


The two workers portrayed in this seventeenth-century weaver’s workshop are engaged in what seems to be an intimate conversation. They are bent towards each other, their heads close, and the figure on the right seems to hold his hand next to his mouth as if he is telling a secret. The man behind the loom looks excited. Is the other telling him good news, a secret, or is he gossiping? In any case, it seems as if the two men are engaged more in an informal conversation than in a formal exchange about the weaving business.

As important as informal conversations are in daily life, for your professional career you need to be able to also hold conversations in a professional manner. Such professional conversations are central to Chapter 10. The preparation and the arrangement of a conversation (the introduction, the middle part, and the conclusion) are discussed successively. This chapter also offers some basic techniques, such as asking questions and follow-up questions, repeating, summarizing, and reflecting, that help you to successfully conduct a professional conversation.

Chapter 10 discusses the methodical, formal side of professional conversations. However, we also pay attention to the 'soft', or more informal, side of interaction. Listening and observation skills are important, as is an active listening position and a focus on mutual goals. The weavers on Decker’s painting seem to know all about this. The extent to which their conversation contributes to a professional goal is uncertain, however.