What Do I Say Next? Talking your way to business and social success By Susan RoAne.
A few posts ago I shared that I was using this reading session to shake out the books from my bookshelves placed there with well meaning intentions, but unread. This book was one of them. I honestly can’t say where I acquired this, but nevertheless it has survived many culls and has remained for one simple reason- the title promises to tell us what to say when I often feel like I have no idea.
It is a very confident person who isn’t lost for words sometimes. Since I have come to America I have often been confronted by situations in which I have no idea what to say, and nearly as often- when I have no idea what the other person is saying either. I naively assumed that Americans spoke English- which I can assure you is not true. They in fact speak so many languages and dialects of what can be considered English it is baffling. And I also baffle them, because my English is not English at all, but a conglomeration of Australian and New Zealand and English (taken from my decades long friendship with my English and Proud best friend Ben)
Only in part because of this, I was to discover – when I actually bothered to read the book- the promise is, for the most part an empty one, or at the very least- inflated. After reading every line I have no more clue what to say than I did before.
Years ago I was exiting a store with an arm load of shopping bags to which a man outside said “I’d eat that” Perplexed I looked at my bags thinking- I didn’t buy any food. Seeing my confusing he restated his proposition more loudly and with the unmistakable inflection that he was talking about me. What does one say to that? The only answer I got from the book was “Glare.” In fact, shooting the stink eye or glaring at ill offenders of a variety of sorts was a tactic heavily relied on by RoAne. In my opinion little else spoils an image of style and charm quicker than a glare, a base reaction that comes naturally- I was aching to see something more profound from a book proclaiming to tell us what to say next. Or at least be something that could- you know- actually be said.
The best part about this book is the sprinkling of quotes , the best of which took up 2 full pages when written in my journal. Possibly my favourite of these was “Words should be weighed, not counted” (A good thing too, since I am prone to long windedness in writing)
Again, one of the worst things about this book (and partly my fault for my procrastination) is that it is outdated. Written and published in the late nineties while I was busy amassing student loan debt to pay for my degree in architectural design which primarily consisted of learning to draw plans using Pens and vellum, the author attempts to navigate the realities of AOL, the new fangled email, smileys and chat rooms. Need I say more.
Yet, If I am to say anything about this book, it is this. Although the author goes to great lengths to warn the reader that insincerity will be uncovered and along with the hard sell is a negative- the book feels to me like both of these things. Littered with self promotion (I did this and got a speaking gig here, I spoke to this person and then got an invite there), the primary concern seems to be that making people feel comfortable is the way to tangible rewards. Here I probably should have been warned by the subtitle of the book- because what is success but a measure of achievement.
For me, the purpose of knowing what to say is that I can better connect to the person to whom I am in conversation. The reward being that we share a pleasant, exciting, interesting, engaging or enlightening discussion that may perhaps lead to a relationship of some sorts and in very rare situations- a friendship (one of life’s great rewards). Rather the book emphasises that from this I might have someone who refers me for a position here, or there. Obviously that is a nice outcome but to me, this is an extra, if sincerity is of concern, those particular fruits should be secondary to the person before us and the rewards of genuine connection that is the best balm to isolation.
Of course, this book did have a few pointers that I wouldn’t stoop to negate and I learned, as a side item that American and European table etiquette are quite different. I read that RoAne had put the tines of her fork up as a sign that she had finished her meal- to which my brain seemed to scream TINES GO DOWN for three days before I googled it to find out that we are both right, and it merely depends what country you happen to be dining in.
In short, now that I have mined out the interesting quotes and smattering of useful gems this one has been relegated without question to the rehoming pile and to my delight has left (in theory) a half an inch of breathing space on my bookshelves.