The Intelligent Conversationalist: A book review by Bob Morris

Intelligent ConversationalistThe Intelligent Conversationalist: 31 Cheat Sheets That Will Show You How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, Anytime
Imogen Lloyd Webber
St. Martin’s Press Griffin (June 2016)

Need advice on how to strengthen your conversation skills and social presence? This is by far the best single source.

Among Andrew Lloyd Webber’s countless claims to fame is the fact that he is the father of the author of this remarkably entertaining as well as highly informative book. Briefly, Imogen Lloyd Webber is a New York-based British author, broadcaster, PEOPLE Now‘s Royals Correspondent &’s Senior Editor. Educated at Cambridge University and a former MSNBC Contributor and Fox News regular, she has made hundreds of appearances on air talking everything from Hillary Clinton to HAMILTON.

Many people are reluctant to become engaged in conversation, especially with strangers, because — they plead — they have “nothing interesting to say.” That will emphatically not be true if and when they read the material that Webber provides.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Lloyd Webber’s coverage:

o Cheat Sheets #1 and #2: Spelling and Grammar (Pages 13-20)
o Three Case Studies: Warren Buffett, Bernard Madoff, and Oprah Winfrey (61-67)
o Briefing Grid: Major Religions (74-83)
o Two Case Studies: Christianity…and Homosexuality, and, Religion…and Terrorism (94-98)
o Why Basic American Beginnings Matter (119-123)
o Briefing Grid: American Presidents (127-138)
o Talking Points: Classic lines to make you see wise (151-152)
o Red Flags: American Imperialism (152-154)
o Briefing Grid: Kings and Queens of England from 1066 (157-183)
o Cheat Sheet #17: Middle Eastern History (210-233)
o Three Case Studies: Republicans and Men, Democrats and Women, and Money and Power (255-260)
o Talking Points: Elections (268-271)
o Red Flags: Elections (271-273)
o Briefing Grid: Authors You Need to Know About (328-336)
o Briefing Grid: Artists You Need to Know About (338-347)
o Briefing Grid: Composers You Need to Know About (350-360)

Lloyd Webber makes brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices that include an Introduction to each of eight subject categories, followed by these sections: ”Wise Words,” “Argument/Crisp Fact/Pivot” format, “Background Briefing,” “Talking Points,” “Key Terms,” “Red Flags,” “Noteworthy Nugget,” and category subject “Summaries.”

Regrettably, for whatever reasons, there is no Index. Perhaps if there is a second edition, one will be added. Meanwhile, the Table of Contents must suffice.

Here are a few representative quotations that Lloyd Webber includes:

o “I didn’t know he was dead. I thought he was British.” Woody Allen
o “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” John Kenneth Galbraith
o “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Friedrich Nietzsche
o “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” Rebecca West
o “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” Margaret Thatcher

Here are two examples of Lloyd Webber’s counsel:

o Argument: “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are Abrahamic. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikkism are Dharmic. It’s naive, but why can’t we all just get along? Really, why can’t we?” Use this when someone is focusing on the dissimilarities of people around the world and you feel the need to point out that we are all human beings — tragedy comes when we forget that.

Note: I presume to add an observation by Margaret Mead: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

o Crisp Fact: “The last time the Republicans won a presidential election without a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket was 1928.” This is one of those mind-boggling, jaw-dropping truths that always adds spice to a political discussion.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the quality of information, insights, and counsel that Imogen Lloyd Webber provides but I do hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of her and of this book. For those in need of advice on how to strengthen their conversation skills and social presence, this really is — by far — the best-single source.

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