A briskly presented program for improving the ways individuals speak—and how they’re heard by others.
CEO Harbridge (Your Professionalism Is Killing You, 2008) produces a management handbook with far broader applications, a manual for interacting that stresses sensitivity over pronouncements. “Influence is not only based on how we talk,” she writes, “but also on how we listen and how we make people feel understood.” This axiom is at the heart of her Context Model, a method of carefully gauging how you speak by meticulously evaluating your listeners. One of the central tenets of the Context Model is honesty, which Harbridge recommends in both ethical and practical terms. “Most of us just aren’t good enough at being fake in the long term,” she points out. “We call this natural inclination our ‘operating system.’ ” Mapping this system onto the values and viewpoints of others is key to the Context Model—the realization that a person’s core message radiates outward in steadily thinning and simplifying waves, moving from the isolated and specific to the general. This model—and the many stories Harbridge uses to illustrate her points—emphasizes the overriding importance of context, both sensing it and providing it. Harbridge repeatedly reminds her readers that mastering the nuances of context in order to increase your influence on others is a gradual process of trial and error. “Do not expect rainbows and unicorns to suddenly appear around you,” she writes. “Influence is iterative: The results will be inconsistent because every human is different.” By reminding her readers of clear-minded actions like “be a student” or “stay open,” Harbridge actually broadens the applicability of her precepts beyond the business world that is her obvious main concentration. Her writing is clear and full of easy, readable dictums. Perusers of business manuals should find some old paradigms offered in vigorous new ways. And general-interest readers will likely find much in these pages to improve their own daily dealings with colleagues and others.
A holistic and refreshingly human approach to interpersonal communication.