A down-home guide to playing well with others.
In this new self-help manual, Loomis (How to Improve Your Relationships, Dramatically, 2000) sets out to help readers master the basic skills of social interaction, with anyone from distant acquaintances to close family members. According to the author, we must all “accept the harsh reality of our self-centeredness” and work from the premise that getting others to like us means getting them to like themselves. In bite-size sections tackling subjects such as listening attentively, giving effective compliments and admitting fault, Loomis offers concrete strategies he calls “MakeFeelGoods” for boosting others’ self-esteem. The author admits that much of the material is common-sensical, but the book still serves as an effective reminder of the mechanisms of our interactions with others. Loomis often offers sharp insights, as when he advises readers not to “ask for advice when it’s really support or approval you want” for something you’ve already decided to do. His folksy tone is often self-effacing, and for the most part, his advice is helpful without being condescending; he also uses examples full of colorful characters and dialogue. Sometimes, however, the old-fashioned style veers into territory that may offend some readers; at one point, for example, the book describes modern “street talk” as a “distorted, arguably illogical, murky use of language;” at another, the author writes about traditional chivalric gestures, asserting that “treating women with such courtesies pleases most of them.” Readers may also find a chapter enumerating the failings of customer service employees to be particularly uncomfortable. At the book’s end, the text becomes more than a little self-important: “Almost daily, you should refer to [this book], so you can become proficient in using the skills it teaches….You have to be reminded, reminded, and reminded.” That said, the book as a whole remains a useful outline of how and why to treat others decently.
A comprehensive, insightful guide to interpersonal relations, sometimes hampered by awkward execution.