I remember the first time I read Robert Cialdini‘s extraordinary book Influence. Although the intended audience may have been psychologists and marketers, as I read it I realized the myriad ramifications for his research. Anyone could apply those lessons to their workplace, to their prospects, and now to social media and see a discernible benefit.
I also remember my frustration reading Eli Goldratt’s The Goal. I am so accustomed to reading straightforward non-fiction, that sorting through a fictional story to try and understand Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints tested me. It wasn’t until I assigned my 15 young supervisors to read The Goal that I understood how accessible the story made the concept. To see those young people searching for bottlenecks and taking the initiative to collaborate and optimize our manufacturing process was extraordinary and due in large part to the format of the book.
These were the experiences that came to mind when I was reading Ellen Bremen’s extraordinary new book, Say THIS Not THAT to Your Professor. The book is a collection of vignettes developed from Professor Bremen’s academic career intended to instruct college students on how to communicate better with their college instructors. Truth told though, the lessons that Bremen imparts are universal lessons on how to empathize and collaborate with other people effectively. I have seen (and have demonstrated) self-destruction caused by youthful hubris – and this is a book that I would have loved to have had twenty years ago.
When I transitioned from a rather non-competitive high school to a rigorous college I had a lot of trouble. I remember my first call home to my dad thinking that he would be upset at me for my struggle, and he was disconcertingly reassuring. In retrospect I don’t think he knew how to help me.
It wasn’t until many years later that I read about how we learn (I finished first in class in both my Officer Advanced Course and my Terminal Management Course) and embraced networking and collaboration (I blew an opportunity to help a branch of my company save about $8 million per year because I didn’t put the work in to build consensus and buy-in). As I read Say THIS Not That it occurred to me that I could have realized many more opportunities and accomplished many things earlier in my career if someone had taken the time to point out how counterproductive some of my behaviors were. And as I play amateur anthropologist in social media, it seems there may be a sense of entitlement now that exceeds even my own (and I was pretty full of myself).
My worst fear as a parent is that I won’t do everything I can to help my kids succeed in life. So while I probably won’t be sending my three year old to sleep with cautions not to use her laptop in class, my kids will understand Professor Bremen’s advice of what to say and do to be successful with people.
And if you know a student in high school or college that you like enough to give them a leg up in life, Say THIS Not That to Your Professor would be a pretty righteous gift. PLUS that gift keeps giving in that Professor Bremen is active in social media and on her website EllenBremen.com.
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