- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books; 1 edition (Oct. 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401302262
- ISBN-13: 978-1401302269
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.5 x 20 cm
- Shipping Weight: 295 g
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #45,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a Positive Impression! Hardcover – Oct 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Would-be social butterflies will get encouragement but little inspiration from this not quite scintillating self-help primer. Fine, a conversation consultant, insists that small talk is the necessary overture to deeper communication, the key to generating business leads and dates and a pathway to a richer life in which strangers are magically transformed into acquaintances. She covers such cocktail-party conundrums as how to spot "approachable" interlocutors, how to make introductions, how to butt into an intriguing conversation, resuscitate a flagging one and bail out of a boring one, and how to resist one-uppers, know-it-alls, motormouths and other abusers of talk. Given the ingrained human reluctance to talk to strangers, will, not technique, is the real issue. Much of the book is taken up with motivational pep-talks to get readers to initiate contact (one agonizing exercise suggests "walk through the mall and just say hello to ten people as you pass them"); in a world where everyone feels at a loss for words, Fine argues, saying virtually anything makes one a "hero." Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily make one a great conversationalist. The heart of Fine's methodology consists of long lists of icebreakers and inviting questions that she instructs readers to memorize and regurgitate as needed to jump-start and sustain conversations, and these read like rather bad small-talk-dull ("How has the internet affected your life?"), stilted ("Do you have a personal motto or creed?") and awkward ("Describe an embarrassing moment you've had."). Tongue-tied readers can benefit from her pointers and exhortation, but one hopes they will think a little harder before they speak.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Former engineer Debra Fine was a wallflower if there ever was one. But when she found herself a single mom and divorcée at 40, who had watched her more affable colleague get promoted around her, she decided she needed to step up her conversational skills. And in doing so developed a system she now teaches to countless others. Debra has become a nationally recognized expert on communication skills, presenting keynotes, training sessions and workshops for numerous corporations and organizations along with hundreds of insurance, real estate, legal, financial, and health care associations.
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This book will give you basic, fundamental social skills at a prime level of communication.
The author, Mrs. Debra Fine, is supposedly a super conversationalist (she calls herself that!) who promises to teach you how to become a super conversationalist yourself. She claims that she was one of those boring engineering specialists who aren't capable of talking about anything that they haven't been trained on in school or college. She used to be shy, afraid, and hesitant during conventions and hospitality receptions. So how did she change?
In the beginning she tells you that there are many old tapes playing in your head that you should get rid of, which include the popular sayings "Don't talk to strangers" and "Silence is gold." Instead, she provides you with new tapes to play that encourage talking to strangers and taking initiative in conversations.
After that she talks about the benefits of getting over your shyness and hesitation and talking to strangers without fear. Afterwards, she provides you with tips and guidelines on what to say and what not to say during small talk conversations. Things not to say such as those questions that will result in a dead-end answer (i.e. How was your weekend, how's the family doing... etc.) and things to say such as proper self-introduction. Then she carries on by providing tips about proper and improper body language gestures during small talks. And finally, she tells us about some conversation killers that we should avoid at all costs.
So you're wondering by now, all of the above seems to be quite interesting. What made me not enjoy the book and learn valuable skills from it? My answer is that I didn't like the book for two reasons.
The first reason is that even though I might not be a "super conversationalist" but I can tell when I'm given bad advice! Why bad advice, you wonder? Well, what Mrs. Fine keeps telling you on and on is to approach strangers with questions that will make them talk, not questions that will make then answer! She keeps going on and on about how to ask the proper questions and how to acquire "free' information about the person you're talking to so that you'll be able to ask even more questions! She also advises you that you shouldn't be just a silent listener, because you should be an active listener. Thus, participate in the discussion by asking questions such as "How did that affect you" or "what did you learn from all that."
Notice anything wrong so far?
She wants you to be one of those annoying people you meet at parties who keep on asking you questions and questions and questions and questions until you feel that you want to pull your arm until your rip it off just to have something to throw at them! You walk into a person's office and you notice a framed university degree hanged on the wall. Wow... free information... let's harass this guy! What did you like about the university? What are the advantages of living in that town? What did you learn in that major? How did this career affect your personal life? ...etc.
Yet what puzzled me the most was that she herself, Mrs. Debra Fine the first, gives you a totally contradicting advice telling you to avoid being an FBI agent! She warns you against harassing people with questions. And I was like, but... what about what you've been telling me for over an hour now? What should I do with all the questioning techniques you just taught me? I guess, nothing...
The second reason I didn't like the book is that whatever good advices remain after you filter the book are pretty much obvious to the average reader. Always keep an eye contact but don't just stare and try to nod and show interest. Don't initiate a conversation you're not sincerely interested in because it will show on you. Always seek the opportunity to converse with strangers because you never know what tremendous effect they might have on your life. And so on.
The only good outcome possible of this book is for really shy readers who need some motivation to get out of their shells and approach people. For that purpose I recommend buying the audio tape because Mrs. Fine is a good speaker and her style is exciting and moving. But please, while doing so be careful so that you don't transform from a shy person into a nagging annoying person!
I felt that the content could be delivered in about half the time, as most things are rather obvious. Yes there are many useful and helpful advices, especially with open-ended questions, and rephrasing few "daily questions" but their delivery on the audiotapes takes rather a long time. I agree with others to be careful not to be transformed to a nagging conversational, and not to ask annoying questions.
Overall it is an average taped seminar.
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