Because of my high interest in human psychology, communication skills and need to know what makes people tick, I chose this book as my next one to read. How to Talk to Anyone: 92 little tricks for big success in relationships by Leil Lowndes was supposed to be a reward for me after a few semi-technical ones. Something to itch that scratch. 😛

Better than How to Win Friends and Influence People?

In the first few pages, Leil compared this book to arguably one of the best communication books out there – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Leil said that How to Talk to Anyone was supposed to be the modernized equivalent of Mr. Carnegie’s masterpiece.

I have read How to Win Friends and Influence People and I think Leil didn’t write a book that would beat Carnegie’s classic.

At first, when picking this book for the 15 Books for a Successful Game Development Start-Up it passed my initial requirements well. I wanted to read something to improve my communication skills – check! I wanted something with good reviews on Amazon – check! I wanted the description to intrigue me – check!
Even tho the title was a bit cheesy, it seemed to be all there.

When I usually read my books, I imagine the author telling me the stories and knowledge he has found the need to share with his readers. I can then visualize and relive his experiences, thus gaining the same knowledge. About 40 pages into this book the author starts describing the first time he had to ask a guy out to go to a school prom… Wait a second… Now I had to check. Yes, the author was actually a lady! 😛 “Leil” didn’t sound like a woman’s name to me at first, yet she definitely is one. That made me put the book down to rethink everything I had read up to that point. I had to replace the main character in the whole story in my head.

From there on, I was interested to get a woman’s perspective on the difficulties of social interaction. As a man, I have always felt that women have a leg up on men when it comes to starting a conversation. So often men feel the thrive to welcome women into their company whenever possible. So, needless to say, I was skeptical. Can a woman give tips to a guy on how to act in social situations? As I kept reading the book, Leil brought out really good usable techniques regardless of the reader’s sex. The book largely revolved around social business parties and business interactions. How to not blow it, how to be memorable and how to impress people.

The book was packed with useful tips from start to end. No doubt about it, the author seems to have had some valuable life experience in the social business world. In fact, there were 92 tricks in this book! Yes, that many! Every tip was explained with some real-life situation Leil has lived through on 2-3 pages. Even tho at least half of them should be printed out and stuck on most business men’s bathroom mirrors, the book lacked in presentation. It felt like the author had just written down as many tips as it took to make a book’s worth of content and then just slapped them all together. Something an unmotivated student would do on a school’s research paper.

Unfortunately, the way the human brain works, there is no way you can memorize 92 tricks in one read. These should be packed in some more edible format. For me at least, the structure was too much all over the place.

The Whatzit method

Some tricks did stick tho and some of them were genuinely good. For example, the Whatzit method. The author recommends to always wear a little something unusual at social events. People will then come and ask or comment on that object. This is a good way to start a conversation with them or give them a chance to start a conversation with you. I love this tip because it gives me a chance to wear something goofy and not look too serious as this reflects my personality well.

Never the naked…

A trick the author decided to split into 3 different chapters. When talking to someone and he/she asks you the usual “Where are you from?” or “What do you do for a living?” – you respond with the answer, and then something extra. For example “I do game development. In fact, I’m really happy doing it, because I loved video games since I was 5 years old. I have my studio here in Tallinn.”. That’s what Leil called Never the Naked Job. It is a way to help the other person out a little bit. The other person can then ask “Oh, what game are you developing?” or “What games did you like best as a child?” or something about your studio. First conversations can be awkward at times. But if you give long informative answers, you give the other person ammunition to keep going.

Same goes for when you introduce two people to each other. I can just imagine an event where you introduce a single guy-friend to a single girl-friend. “Hey, I want you two to meet each other. This is Jack and this is Jane.” And then you quickly waddle away leaving them staring at each other, not knowing what to say next. You should mention a few facts about each of them, to help them start talking before you leave.

Grapevine Glory

I really loved the approach Leil took on compliments! Nowadays compliments make people more suspicious than giving them pure joy. That is because people have started to use them as a bribing tool to get what they want. That is why people are more careful and often think “okay, what does he want?” when receiving a compliment.

The better way to give a compliment, that Mrs. Lowndes recommended was what she called a Grapevine Glory. Let’s say you want to tell Jane you like how good she is with history. (Lovely example, I know) You don’t go walk up to Jane and tell her straight. You instead go to Jane’s best friend Mary and tell her about your admiration for Jane’s historical knowledge. Now Mary feels good to be a messenger of good praise and will later privately tell Jane. That way it is very likely the person still gets the compliment and doesn’t take it the wrong way. You also create a better image of yourself in the eyes of the person you complimented and the friend that delivered the compliment.

A compliment one hears is never as exciting as the one he overhears.

I could go on and on with some tips that I found worth mentioning in the book, but that would make this blog post too long. As I said, there were 92 tips in the book and most I found really good. I think the book had a lot of value, thus I recommend it. I just wish reading it didn’t feel like reading a high schooler’s last minute research paper.