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The Fine Art of Small Talk (Audiobook)


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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
These two books treat similar subjects, but the contrasts are significant. One covers the entire landscape of speaking, whereas the other focuses just on "small talk." The title of Speak from the Heart describes the book's very solid premise. Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and motivational speaker Adubato emphasizes the importance of being genuine as he attempts to cover every conceivable speaking situation, including public speaking, private conversations, group discussions, and listening. He guides readers in the use of eye contact, developing a conversational style, and being comfortable with their message. Despite many charming personal anecdotes and stories drawn from other sources, this book remains a heavy read. Ironically, while Adubato tells us to make a connection with our audience rather than to "cover the material," he does a much better job of covering the material than of connecting. In contrast, Fine fully engages her audience. She involves readers in the discussion and gives lists of lines people can use to start, maintain, or end a conversation. She discusses conversation topics and how to use them and also includes quizzes, throws in a poem, and scatters a few cartoons to break up the text. Originally released as an audiocassette in 1997, this work comes across much like one of her seminars on small talk. The Fine Art of Small Talk does everything that Speak from the Heart says should be done. Adubato's book is best for academic libraries or large public and business libraries. Fine's is a better choice for most public libraries, as well as business libraries. David Leonhardt, Toronto

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