Have you ever noticed that some people are just naturally good at making friends, can sell just about anything and are liked by nearly everyone? Then there are those who are just plain awkward and for whom a basic conversation seems like a victory. Years ago, when I found myself in the awkward camp, I remember thinking that the art of conversation was a bit of a mystery. Eventually, I realized that listening to other people and asking questions about them was so much easier than contrived topics or defaulting to the weather.
Due to my own struggle, my interest was piqued when I came across the book, Win Friends and Customers: Relationship and Business Success from Empathic Acknowledging by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D. As a clinical psychologist for over 30 years and an expert on the topic of empathetic acknowledging, he seeks to help people improve their conversation skills and relationships by becoming more intentional about the way they listen and respond to other people.
Without a background in psychology, I found myself struggling when I first started reading. Written in strong clinical terminology, it felt cumbersome despite being relatively short. I was unfamiliar with the term “empathetic acknowledging” and it was not clearly defined as the book commenced. Given that this is a book on communication, I didn’t expect to feel bogged down as I read. Nonetheless, I’m glad I read it. Eventually I figured out that empathetic acknowledging is a form of responsive listening whereby you give the reader verbal cues to indicate empathy or interest in their problems, experience or important situation. Using a wide variety of situational examples, Dr. Bookbinder presents the benefits and potential disadvantages of empathetic acknowledging. Its primary expectation is that someone will hear you and let you think out loud but not offer advice or try to direct your decision making. He suggests that this form of listening includes many benefits including emotional closeness with loved ones, successful handling of customer complaints, good relationships despite lifestyle differences and conflict resolution. With so many benefits, it is applicable to nearly everyone.
Despite its strong clinical overtones, I appreciated the insight offered by Dr. Bookbinder. Many of his tips are easy to implement and simply require more intentionality. I think the suggestions he offers would help anyone who find themselves struggling to connect in relationships or would like to improve the quality of their communication.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Cadence Marketing Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.