James Borg’s acclaimed book on persuasion and the art of listening has enriched me. I must admit I was never into business literature that deals with the various aspects of the business relation.
While I have a working knowledge of developmental psychology, psycholinguistics and team communication, but this book is about something much more specific. It is about the art of making business relations, of engaging another business person in dialogue, mainly with the purpose of selling a product or service.
As business and love are amazingly similar in their principles, it doesn’t surprise that the techniques here presented and elaborated also profit the private sphere and intimate and family relations. The author gives several examples showing that when companies trained their staff in various aspects of business communication, there was an immediate positive impact also upon the family lives of these employees, namely an improvement of the intra-familiar communication, both in the couple and between parents and children.
The book is systematic, well-researched and amusing to read. It shines by its pragmatic and down-to-earth approach, which is perhaps why it appeals to such a large audience.
In addition, the author has a light and witty tone that is very useful when you consider the formalism of psycholinguistics, a science that is rather tedious to study. To be honest, this book is full of real-life examples and anecdotes that make the richness of the texture, and show the author’s large experience in the field of building and maintaining relationships, business and private.
The art of listening is really a center point in this book, perhaps the most important single issue discussed in it.
The next central point of the study is memory and how to improve memory. In my research on human genius, I found that people of genius are generally outstanding in the techniques of mnemonics. So let us ask what is the use of a memory in business relations?
I think it serves more than one purpose. It is important to quickly recapitulate and present facts to back one’s claims or point of view with facts. In addition, it is necessary to remember dealings you made previously with a particular person or business. In job interviews, it is often necessary to shine with facts and details from your previous employment. But most of all, as James Borg explains, we need to memorize names and faces, and as a second step, then, to associate those names with the faces. This is essential for contact making, both in the formal and the informal setting, at business meetings and during company outings, parties and excursions when teams meet other teams for the purpose to later collaborate more closely.
Another intriguing topic of the book is how to make effective phone calls, and how to use a sort of telepathy or intuition to correctly second guess how one ‘comes over’ to the other in the various stages of a business conversation, and how the other might be distracted in various ways to ‘receive’ one’s message, which then imperatively requires the change of tactics.
Before the author discusses the various personality types, he gives substantial advice on how to deal with what we might call ‘difficult’ people—while we should be well aware that this is a judgment that the person herself will contest in most cases. I would like to caution the reader here as from this point in the book, I felt I was more in contradiction with the author than before, and this for three fundamental reasons. First, I believe that judging is generally wrong; second, we most of the time have no valid reasons for our judgments, which are more often than not based upon appearances; and third, I am convinced that psychiatric ideas of ‘personality types’ are just another mental drawer that does basic injustice to the human nature that is too complex too be drawn out in lines and circles. I would go as far as saying that the very attempt to 'categorize' human beings is a basic error, while I do admit that we all have personal or transpersonal behavior patterns.
So what we are talking about is behavior, not people or personalities, it’s patterns, and those patterns can be changed as they are not carved in stone, and when they are used as judgments about people, we are on the wrong track altogether to ever negotiate peacefully and respectfully with people. We are just all too different to allow us saying we were fitting in certain mental or psychological drawers.
This being said, while some of the ideas the author may be useful, I do generally not think that even if we have all the psychological knowledge needed about different types of persons, in real life we do not apply this knowledge, but act more or less intuitively.