Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

What Do You Say When…

The cover of What Do You Say When… states it is concerned with the reader talking to people with confidence on any social or business occasion. Considering for many expats, advancement in this society requires business networking, I felt this rather slim volume (150 pages) could perhaps be of use for some.

I believe that most of us began our adult lives being somewhat shy, or in awe of the communications needed in the adult world, so some sort of guide book should have a value.

Florence Isaacs, a lady who has apparently written nine books, has written What Do You Say When… (ISBN 978-0-307-40528-9, Clarkson Potter, 2009) and begins by pointing out that despite all the electronic advances, “Yet cell phones and computers do not suffice to build relationships, and they have eroded social skills.”

That being the case, author Isaacs suggests that the readers should use the first two chapters to learn the conversation strategies, chapters three, four and five to check for conversation openers, chapters six and seven supplies conversation tips to make holidays more rewarding, chapter nine gives differences between social and business occasions and finally chapter 12 will tell you what to do at funerals and when seeing people in ill health. Florence Isaacs states that the information in the book “has already helped me to boost my own conversation skills and confidence. My goal is now to help you improve yours.”

Chapter one begins with the scenario where you find you have been seated next to Bill Gates at a dinner and proposes, “What do you say?” I would imagine that most people would not be the instigator of any conversation with Mr. Gates, and Mr. Gates would not be suffering from performance anxiety, and he would begin the conversation. “Do you use Windows 7,” would be an obvious starter from his side. However, you could easily begin by asking, “What is coming next, in the operating system?”

I actually found this to be a very repetitive book, as while social and business occasions could be thought of as very different, from the point of communicating with one’s fellow man or woman, there is no real difference. Obviously at a business dinner the opening gambits will be different to those making first overtures in the dating game, but the general principle is the same. Invite the person you wish to communicate with to respond by asking open questions first and then let them reply. This is hardly rocket science, but the individual chapters make it look as if there are very different parameters to be applied. There aren’t.

At B. 595, even though it has hard covers, it is difficult to recommend this book other than to someone who is almost dysfunctional as far as communication is concerned. It is not a reference book, and just because it mentions Tiger Woods and Winston Churchill as being people who overcame their natural shyness to become celebrities it does not have the holy grail between the covers. It does, however, point out you learn more by listening than you do by talking!