Book Review: How To Say Anything To Anyone


I wish I had read How To Say Anything To Anyone sooner. Perhaps before I even entered the workforce. I love how this book is so practical and teaches exactly what to say within certain situations and circumstances. Too many times I have felt stumped by trying to figure out the most effective way to communicate to another person within the office, especially in the confines of an office culture where politics gets lost on me. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Why should we change who we are for an office culture that is foreign to us from the start? Why not speak up and say what’s on your mind? I may not be the norm here, and it seems that people generally shy away from having direct and honest conversations about how they are feeling in particular about their work. Even in a recent Freakonomics podcast it is mentioned that a culture of being too polite in an office can actually cause more harm than good:

“And going back to our earlier conversation, most human connection and gatherings suffer more from unhealthy peace than from unhealthy conflict.

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When I was in college for my undergrad, I read a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, which was great for helping me navigate and create boundaries within interpersonal relationships. That book helped me process and create what appropriate boundaries meant for me. However, the book lacked a certain practicality that I felt was also missing from my education. Essentially, I had to learn the hard way: trial and error.

In the past 15 plus years of my professional experience I have:

  • Spoken up verbally about my salary, experience, and knowledge within my field to my direct supervisors and in most cases the Owner, President, or CFO of the firm.

  • Been vocal about how I was feeling with particular employees, and direct reports.

  • Managed up to my direct supervisors and or managers.

Please note, I did not say all these conversations were successful. I had to do some pretty challenging soul searching, take some big risks and leaps of faith when it came to how hard those conversations were. I know I may be the exception to the rule here, but what I was missing within all of those conversations were how to be more effective in my communication as well as not take these conversations personally. Most especially within an organization that had layers of reporting and supervisors.

Fast forward to present day - I feel that this book is helpful and will remain useful for me. As I grow this business I am finding what is working for me in this new space. I also find that bringing the right people on board have a lot to do with the success of your business.

Back to the book, here are my top 3 take-aways that I find super useful. I’m going to quote the book, because I think it is critical to have the language as part of having this in your toolbelt when going to your 9 to 5 job everyday.

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1.    It’s okay to ask questions

There are way too many times where people generally feel like they are not allowed to be direct with their direct supervisors, or even any authority above them.

“Ask what your manager expects; don’t wait to be told” (Page 72)

“Human beings have a need to know. When we don’t know what’s happening and why, we make things up and talk about them to whoever will listen.

  • What is working for you about my management style?

  • What do you wish I would do more?

  • What would you like me to start, stop, and continue doing?” (Page 60)

2.    Only gossip to your cat

There are so many of you out there that I have gossiped with, and right now I am smh at myself for it. There were too many instances back in those days where I felt trapped amongst the situation at work, felt like I had no idea what to say, and it was just too easy to turn to my colleague and dish all the dirty details to either “vent” or “get advice” from.

“People will never stop gossiping. It’s one of those human things. We all do it, and we aren’t going to quit. The best we can hope for is to reduce the amount of time we spend talking about other people behind their backs.” (Page 98)

This story made me laugh:

“If you do feel the need to talk about what’s happening in your office, be sure to talk with someone either above you or at the same level. “Venting” with someone on a level below you is gossip and puts the other person in an awkward position. I’d prefer you take your conversation out of your office and tell your spouse, your friends outside of work (protecting the people you work with by changing their names, of course) or, better yet, your cat, who will never violate a confidence.” (Page 99)

‘Nuff said.

3.    Provide feedback

I absolutely loved this point because it seems that there is just not enough feedback happening in order to affect change. 

“The purpose of feedback is to shift or reinforce behavior. When you provide someone with feedback, it helps if the person can clearly remember the situation you’re talking about. If you wait to address an issue that happened several weeks or months ago, people may not remember the situation and you will appear to be someone who holds a grudge.” (Page 133)

Feedback will be a powerful tool that you can use within the office and outside of the office. Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to providing feedback:

  • Provide feedback within 24 hours to no later than a week away from the incident. (page 133)

  • Provide feedback with courage and compassion so that you have both a listening ear with an open heart.

  • Provide feedback in person and in private to keep the confidence and trust moving forward.

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Here’s the point, friends. I know how SUPER hard it is to speak up within the confines of office culture. But, YOU can be the one to take the first step in creating a more open and honest office culture. For those having a hard time with what specifically to say, Harley provides very specific scripts of what her recommendation to say during those specific situations. As Harley says in the book, having the right language removes the roadblocks to open communication. This book stresses the idea that having simple language to bring to your immediate supervisor/boss will help aide in the discussion. This is such a simple little fact, but all too powerful. If this is the case for you, then I would definitely recommend this book, and memorize those scripts.

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