We’ve all been there.
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You’re at an office cocktail party, or any party. Maybe your boss or somebody you’d like to get to know better brings up the financial collapse of 2008, or the gold standard. Or religion. Or the history of the Kings and Queens of England, World War I or II, or the American Constitution. Or nuclear weapons. Or the names of authors, composers or their favorite plays.
And then you dive right in, not knowing what you’re talking about. In fact, as you listen to yourself, you suddenly realize how awfully random you sound, as your train of thought makes all local stops. And even though the conversation felt at the outset like a nice warm pond, it’s starting to feel like you've jumped into a pool of live hair dryers. So, like a cuttlefish blowing off ink, you start voicing orotund, meaningless sentences. And pretty soon, this keening reality sets in, you are—justifiably—standing there all alone. Wondering how you can prevent this from happening ever again.
There’s now a new book that will rescue you from such awkward situations and stop you from ever putting yourself through yet another fresh hell like that.
It’s Imogen Lloyd Webber’s new book, "The Intelligent Conversationalist” (St. Martin’s Griffin, June 2016). A New York-based, British author, Webber is also the senior editor of Broadway.com and People Now's royals correspondent. And Webber is a respected, formidable TV analyst who is a regular on the FOX News Channel, the FOX Business Network and Don Imus’s radio show on WABC, Imus in the Morning. Webber always does her homework, using cheat sheets to demolish opponents on air.
It’s the use of those cheat sheets that has expanded into a full-blown, solid book filled with 31 crib sheets you can use anywhere, to sound as smart as a TV expert, be it at an office party, a networking get together, or even if you have to schmooze after a work conference.
The book takes a load off your shoulders, and makes you feel at ease anywhere. It can make you appear to be well-versed in anything, as if you’ve read dozens of books, policy briefs and newspapers. Even though you haven’t. Because Webber has done that work for you.
"The Intelligent Conversationalist” is loaded with interesting facts spanning a range of topics. Some of my favorites:
• More than 210 million people around the world use currencies pegged to the euro;
• There were at least six botched investigations by the financial authorities of the fraudster Bernie Madoff;
• Fun is not a word that appears in the Russian language;
• China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the U.S. are, in that order, the countries that executed the most people in 2014;
•Apparently Shakespeare invented about 1,700 of the 17,000 words he wrote;
•George Bernard Shaw is the rarity who has won both an Oscar and the Nobel Prize. Shaw won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1925 and also won an Oscar for writing the screenplay to "Pygmalion” in 1938.
Plus Webber gives you witty advice to get out of any sticky conversation. For example, Webber suggests when talking about the Eurozone, to “throw in the word Greece after Glass-Steagall and then take an elaborate sip of your beverage. People will nod and mutter and then focus on the nearest canapé.”
Webber also has unearthed quotes you may not have ever heard. Like this gem from President John F. Kennedy: “We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
Or this from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, on what the Founding Fathers contended with in four months’ time, in 1787: “They argued about what a House should be, what a Senate should be, the power of the president, the Congress, the Supreme Court. And they had to deal with slavery.”
Or this from Winston Churchill: “Show me a young conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”
Or this from George Washington: “Someday, following the example of the United States of America, there will be a United States of Europe.”
I wonder what Washington would say about the Eurozone’s 28-nation apparatus if he were alive today. Webber provides plenty for you to say on that subject, and much more. Go buy the book.