Some may groan at the thought of interacting with people in person. God forbid that we have to actually see people face to face. Most people would rather send a Facebook message or try to connect via LinkedIn rather than pick up the phone to call someone. However, as much time as we may spend online, there will still be times when we must interact with people in person. Teenagers have grown up in a world that always had the Internet. It is likely that some have not learned many social skills or just are uncomfortable with the skills they do have. Kirt Manecke hopes his book will assist in getting them more comfortable with these skills and provide a bit more to help them succeed in life.

Kirt Manecke wrote Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service and received feedback that teens across America should read it. With that in mind, and with input from various parents and teenagers, he wrote Smile and Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World. The book is filled with tips and techniques based on customer service and sales skills intended to help a teenager land their first job, be successful at school, and find success in their personal relationships. With over 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business, Manecke provides clear insight into necessary techniques for success and building relationships.

The information in Smile and Succeed is split among seven chapters. Each chapter has a focus, whether it is on getting a job, selling more, or getting a donation. Most of the information provided is geared towards jobs or customer service; however, some of it is applicable to other arenas. For instance, the first chapter is devoted to the “top ten people skills.” These skills include:

  • Smile
  • Use eye contact
  • Say please and thank you

Chapter 5 expounds on the first with more people skills that are a bit more in depth. One of the key skills listed in this chapter is “When you don’t know the answer, ask!” Rather than respond to a question with a glum “I don’t know,” Manecke encourages readers to respond with “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer but I’ll find someone who does so they can help you.” This advice can be key in countless situations and can assist in learning new skills. As Manecke puts it, “the more you know, the more confident you become.” In the “Rock the World — Find Your Cause” section, Manecke encourages readers to volunteer and even provides a list of various nonprofit organizations, divided up by cause.

Manecke clearly put some careful planning into the delivery of this book for teenagers. Cartoon illustrations throughout the book keep the tone light and cheerful. I particularly appreciated the depiction of a “limp fish” handshake. Relevant statistics or key insights are delivered on computer screen icons. Rather than weigh the book down with paragraphs of detailed prose, Manecke presents his information in direct language, keeping things short and to the point. Some of the information is delivered in bullet points and many of his tips require only two pages. While most may not consider the presentation so crucially, the thoughtful planning made the information easily digestible and entertaining.

While the overall presentation and delivery of Smile and Succeed for Teens are strong, there is some lacking in the assumed application of the tips. Because the premise of the book is focused on developing social skills, it would require actual practice with people in order to develop these skills. There may be some teens that will not use these tips without nudging; however, it would be helpful to have an accompanying parent’s guide with activities to engage and practice with teens. It is important to note that the site, www.smileforteens.com, does provide guides for practicing within a classroom and a teacher’s guide. Nevertheless, parents could play a vital role in teaching their teenagers these skills and helping with the application.

There is possibly some argument to be made that many of the tips are common sense or standard good manners. The first chapter alone was difficult to read through because the tips seemed trite and unnecessary. “Smile!” “Shake hands firmly!” “Turn off your electronics!” “Pay attention!” To some extent, it felt like sitting in a 5th grade cotillion class. However, I could not, and still cannot, determine whether the tips are common sense or if we have generations of kids growing up not knowing how to socialize outside of Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps it is both, though, and if so, then all of the tips are necessary. Again, I’ll circle back at this point to reiterate the importance of parent’s involvement in implementing these tips.

It is hard to narrow down all of the skills that are necessary for being successful in getting a job or keeping that job. However, Kirt Manecke’s Smile and Succeed for Teens does provide people skills tips and skills for job hunting, customer service, and general success in life. With an entertaining and succinct delivery, Manecke’s book will be helpful to many teenagers attempting to find their way in the real world.

Smile and Succeed for Teens: A Crash Course in Face-to-Face Communication
Solid Press, LLC, June 2014
Paperback, 144 pages
$9.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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