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Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation Hardcover – October 12, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A handbook for anyone who's ever walked away from a work confrontation, fuming--only to think of the perfect rejoinder an hour later. Reardon (The Secret Handshake) breaks down the art of the comeback, emphasizing preparation, keeping your cool, and handling conflicts with a carefully thought-out strategy, pointing out that each of us is at least 75% responsible for how people respond to us. She helps readers change their mindsets, getting past the mental models learned early in life that we later use for dealing with emotional or threatening issues at work. Through a thorough briefing of the different kinds of bullies we might face at work--the puppeteer, the complainer, etc.--and strategies for telling when it's best to walk away and when it's time to engage, she guides readers to self-discovery and skills, from honing their gut instincts to mastering facial expressions and gestures needed to overcome comeback brain freeze. A lively, encouraging book, bound to banish l'esprit d'escalier forever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A book that I love... how to stay cool, how to say the right thing...yet putting that person on notice in a polite and diplomatic way... I learned so much from it.  It is a great, great book." --WNPR: Faith Middleton's Book Show

Acclaim for Kathleen Kelley Reardon's The Secret Handshake:
"I read a little bit and I was hooked...full of practical advice, illustrated by the kinds of point-making stories that they tell in business schools...Most of her strategies emphasize constructive engagement.  I liked The Secret Handshake so much I gave a copy to my daughter."
--Boston Globe
"A gold mine of strategy and information...shows readers how they, too, can place themselves in the inner circle... a fascinating book -- that helps shine a light on the sometimes murky world of corporate politics."
--Dallas Morning News

“A lively, encouraging book, bound to banish l’esprit d’escalier forever.” (—Publishers Weekly)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061771023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061771026
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #750,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kathleen Kelley Reardon's newest book, the mystery thriller SHADOW CAMPUS, is her debut novel.

Author of 10 books, she is a professor at USC's Marshall School of Business, a featured political blogger at The Huffington Post since 2005, and the recipient of the 2013 Humanitarian Award from the UConn Alumni Association.

Her first book, PERSUASION IN PRACTICE, (revised edition retitled), was called by Public Opinion Quarterly "a landmark contribution to the field" of research and theory in persuasion.

Her first trade book, THEY DON'T GET IT, DO THEY?, was based on her Harvard Business Review article "The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk," which became an HBR reprint best seller. Her latest HBR article is "Courage as a Skill."

THE SECRET HANDSHAKE (2000), an Amazon business and nonfiction bestseller, provides a rare and perceptive inside look at the politics of business. IT'S ALL POLITICS (2005) provides a deeper analysis of workplace politics. Other Kathleen Kelley Reardon books for professional people include THE SKILLED NEGOTIATOR (2004) and COMEBACKS AT WORK: USING CONVERSATION TO MASTER CONFRONTATION (2010).

Professor Reardon also wrote CHILDHOOD DENIED: ENDING THE NIGHTMARE OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT (2008) an investigation into the legal, political and societal treatment of foster children in the U.S. The concept she introduced in that book of creating university-based academies to prepare foster children for college (of whom only approximately 3% graduate) has already resulted in the creation of four such academies at major universities, with more on the way. At First Star, the nonprofit with which initiates and develops those academies, she was a co-founding board member is the its Distinguished Research Fellow

Her breakthrough INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS GIFT-GIVING: A GUIDE FOR AMERICAN EXECUTIVES was used by the White House Office of Protocol as a primary reference for many years as well as by chiefs of protocol for nations and businesses around the world.

At USC, Dr. Reardon also served on the Preventive Medicine Faculty for over 15 years and was earlier a professor of Communication Sciences at UCONN. She earned her Ph.D., at UMass Amherst, where she graduated with distinction and won the NCA national dissertation of the year award. She is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board. She has consulted for many individuals, and companies large and small around the world on topics related to communication, persuasion, negotiation and politics at work.

She has appeared on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News and Good Morning America. Her research and writings have been covered in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and broadcast news segments.

In SHADOW CAMPUS, she has taken her knowledge of politics in the workplace to fiction and shows us how even at universities often all is not what it seems.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Have you ever come away from a meeting wishing you had said something--or worse, wishing that you hadn't lost your cool and embarrassed yourself? In "Comebacks at Work," Reardon and Noblet help you to map out in advance some of the dysfunctional communication patterns you are likely to get lost in at work, and then they help you chart the high road out.

"Comebacks at Work" gives you tools to deal with types like the Critic, the Blamer, the Complainer, and more. There is advice on dealing with comeback "brain freeze" and on recognizing dysfunctional patterns so that you can avoid getting sucked into them. There are assessments to help you figure out which comebacks work for you, which is very useful for non-confrontational types who might be reluctant to dish out comebacks.

While "Comebacks at Work" has a lot of substance and information, it's also an enjoyable read. Realistic (and often real-life) examples illustrate different ways to put the principles into practice. You get the tools to keep your cool, minimize your workplace stress, stay on the high road (in most cases), and work effectively.
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Format: Hardcover
Kathleen Kelley Reardon hits the mark time and time again with "Comebacks at Work". By encouraging me to think critically about how I communicate, and offering advice for those difficult conversations one encounters daily; I benefited immediately from the results.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Kathleen Kelley Reardon's latest book, written with Christopher Noblet, M.B.A., educates the reader in the art of constructing the disarming response. One of the greatest strengths of the book is that it allows you to re-examine your previous responses in professional contexts, and to learn that you indeed might have a bright future ahead! To those of us who stew for days about what we might have, could have, should have said, Reardon and Noblet provide us with insight into the process of productively preparing for and responding to uncomfortable work situations. While reminding us that we teach others how to treat us, Reardon and Noblet caution against using unproductive patterns of responding. I am fondest of the chapters, "Overcoming Comeback Brain Freeze," which visits those haunting moments of not knowing how to respond, "Choosing a Relevant Comeback," which provides a rubric of comebacks for a variety of situations, and "The Gut Check," which validates the connection between the rational and the emotional. Chock full of examples, Reardon and Noblet's book is comforting and readable.
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Format: Hardcover
"Comebacks at Work" by Kathleen Kelley Reardon, Ph.D., with Christopher Noblet, M.B.A., is an excellent resource for people who consistently find themselves at a loss for words when criticized, confronted or belittled by the bullies, blamers and control freaks that infest far too many workplaces.

We've all experienced that helpless feeling of "brain freeze" when a co-worker says something degrading or inappropriate, especially in front of others. It doesn't matter if the offender is malevolent or merely clueless; simply absorbing their abuse (or groundless accusations) not only increases your stress level, it can hurt you professionally by making you appear to be weak and ineffectual, the office doormat. And office doormats never get ahead; they get stepped on.

Reardon and Noblet's book offers numerous examples of the most common types of insulting or demeaning remarks uttered by colleagues (and bosses), along with the most effective ways to disarm them. It helps readers assess situations of conflict in order to choose the appropriate comeback, from non-confrontational "rephrasing" of an offending comment to stop-them-in-their-tracks rebukes and retaliations.

Perhaps the authors' most valuable insight, however, is that "each of us is at least 75 percent responsible for how people respond to us." That's a powerful, not to mention empowering, concept.

Nobody should have to put up with workplace verbal abuse and the related stress it brings. "Comebacks at Work" provides an practical blueprint and battle plan for fighting back.
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Format: Hardcover
Do you just use conversations to express your feelings or exchange facts...and then wonder "How do those people manage to put aggressors in their place?"

Conversations aren't really about letting people know what's on your mind. They're about, among other things:

* Displaying how well you can fight back *proportionately* when provoked,

* Getting messages across in ways that can, if necessary, be denied later on,

* Showing how well you can sync with the other person,

* Gauging whether your co-worker has the courage of his convictions (a good sign that he's well-informed as well as well-intentioned),

* Showing that you don't take yourself too seriously (and hence that you [1] can see yourself to some extent as others see you and [2] have confidence in your abilities and track record),

* Seeing how well someone can think on her feet and under stress -- even on someone else's terms.

All well and good for those of us who either had families to train us from childhood, or picked it up by osmosis when we were young. For everyone else, there's Kathleen Kelley Reardon.

Comebacks aren't a cut and dried, paint by numbers exercise...any more than, say, playing chess. And just as every self-respecting chess book teaches not only the various pieces and their moves but also particular openings, gambits, sacrifices and other tactics, Comebacks at Work teaches different kinds of specific comebacks. In fact, it also gives various options for a given situation so you can pick your favorite.
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