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Great Primer Book Helpful for Conversation and Friendship
on February 21, 2003
I am a pastor who has a gift of gab and a number of friends, some of them close. My sister (who is the ultimate friendly person) and I were raised by parents who knew how to converse well, so we picked up these skills in a natural setting. We are both real schmoozers. My wife is also highly relational. So, unlike many self-help book reviewers, I am reviewing from a different perspective: I did not read this book for personal growth reasons (I do read books on other subjects to address my weak spots, however), but to try to help instruct others who struggle here.
For many years, I have dealt with folks who wanted to learn to converse and make friends. When one is brought up with those skills, it becomes difficult to enumerate exactly what it is we talkers do. When I read, "How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends," I said to myself, "Yep. This is a lot of what we (and many other people strong in this area) do." Gabor has organized and put into outline form the most basic principles of conversation and friendship initiation. And that is a whole lot more helpful than saying, "I don't know. We just do it!"
Gabor also allows for differing personalities and relational styles. Although we may have to leave our comfort zone (in time, change becomes comfortable), we need to be who we are and converse with others based upon who they are.
Please understand that this book is limited in its scope. It can help people initiate friendships, but it does not direct one toward relational depth. This book can help folks make a number of casual friends but not necessarily close friends. For deeper communication, I suggest William Backus' book, "Telling Each Other the Truth," a volume that addresses matters like conflict resolution, honesty, etc. Gabor's book is not really intended to guide you into relational depth. It does a great job for its intent: helping you chat better and initiate the early stages of friendship. For some folks, their instincts may kick in at that point. Others will need to study further.
The other limitation of this book (and there is no way to avoid it) is that the directives can be overwhelming because of their sheer volume. My advice is to choose a few areas to work on. Once those practices are incorporated and become second nature, then it is time to add a few more. In a sense, the book is arranged in order of importance, with the early chapters being the most crucial to master. I recommend starting at the beginning.
In addition to Gabor's insights, I suggest hanging around and imitating those who seem to have it together in these departments. There is nothing quite like seeing conversation in action and then telling oneself to "go and do likewise." It may seem awkward at first, but, in time, it can become second nature. Some folks (who have difficulty choosing the right words) might even consider practicing a conversation in an empty room, almost memorizing a script.
On quotable section reads, "Most shy people take the passive role when it comes to starting conversation. They wait and wait and wait, hoping someone will come along and start a conversation with them..."
He emphasizes that communication consists mostly of body language, then tone or voice, and, lastly, words.
Here is some simplistic but crucial advice, "Use plenty of eye contact, smile, and, above all, keep your arms uncrossed and your hands away from your face."
The book consists of 15 chapters divided into 4 sections. The sections are: Starting Your Conversation with Confidence. Continuing Your Conversation with Wit and Charm, Ending Your Conversation with a Great Impression, and Boosting Your Conversation to the Next Level.
The last chapter lists his 50 main points, some of which include, "Be the first to say hello, Introduce yourself to others, Show others you are listening by restating their comments, and Beware of open and closed body language."
This book is not rocket science (though filled with details), but it is a good place to start. Although I consider myself strong in the conversation department, I admit that I did pick up a pointer or two. Go for it.