Barbara Walters Knows How To Talk

14 Jun

“I have been on television continuously for over 50 years,” so said Barbara Walters upon announcing her retirement. Barbara Walters is someone I’ve paid extra attention to. As a communications professional, I have taken note of her accomplishments and her skills throughout my career. Feeling reflective over this news, I went to my bookshelf to pick up a cherished book.

FF.BarbaraWalters.6.14.13In her first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything published in 1970, she talks about talking. In fact she gives a Master Class on conversation. She says the skills she uses as a journalist “…have been a boon to me in hundreds of everyday situations.” Her practical advice has proven time and again to be timeless, insightful, and universally useful.

This is my dog-eared, much used, and bruised first edition copy. Try to get this long out-of-print book for yourself. As Barbara Walters has shown us for 50 years, there is an art to conversation.

On carrying on a conversation: “… There should be genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception.”

On talking with a celebrity: Be sincere (be admiring but don’t gush), be prepared, and be considerate.

On talking with a business person: Ask what gives them their greatest feeling of accomplishment.

On talking with the President: “Think human.”

On age gaps: When talking to kids, “Be honest. Be simple, be direct, be open.” Older people appreciate being asked their opinions on the latest social and technological changes.

On the key to making contact: Inner confidence.

On charm: Be warm. Show interest, reach out, and be generous with your time.

Throughout her book, Barbara Walters emphasizes the importance of being honest and real. It is this anecdote that always stuck with me. To me, it summarizes her message. She quotes Elwood P. Dowd from the play, Harvey:

… My mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”




Barbara Walters Quote:
How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (1970)

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