Sometimes self-help authors can’t help but fall into the trap of being overly positive. But not Michelle Tillis Lederman — she knows how to remain balanced.
In her book, The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like, she proves her method simply by the way she writes. She is realistic about her advice, constantly explaining her thought processes and personal situations, and she understands everyday struggles. She doesn’t pretend that she is in a constant state of perfect happiness and she doesn’t try to convince her readers that they need to be either. She simply offers her readers a way to strengthen and maintain relationships, both personally and professionally, as she is a businesswoman and a professor of business at NYU’S Stern School of Business.
I instantly found myself connecting with her as a narrator and I was engaged by her advice and her stories. I was worried this book wouldn’t tell me anything new, but Lederman finds a way of repurposing natural advice, like “you have to like you first.” She breaks it down into how to realistically achieve this feeling, pointing out the places where you can easily get tripped up. In this example, she explains that when you assume that you cannot do something or do not deserve something, it helps to ask yourself “Do I want to be right about this?” She goes on to say, “if your answer is “No,” then you need to change your reality.” So, even the advice that you thought you knew becomes fresh and more tangible.
This book thrives on logical, straightforward advice and the setup follows the same format. Lederman divides her book into eleven chapters, not including the short introduction and conclusion, and each chapter explains one of the “laws.” Each chapter is introduced with an inspirational quote, establishing a root for where the law came from, and then she expands to include personal stories of either herself or of someone she knows and how this particular law has affected them. Sporadically throughout the book she includes “live the law” sections that give you a quick way to self-assess and stay active in the process. She divvies up each chapter with large section headings to guide you and finishes with a memory refreshing section to review her key points. There is no set formula to each chapter, but they all include these features, which help you to make notable connections that you will remember in the future.
In addition to her sections being divided by “law,” Lederman divides the eleven laws into three sections. The sections revolve around the center of relationships and connections, which she calls the conversation. The first section is “before the conversation,” which helps you look at yourself through the laws of authenticity, self-image, perception and energy. The next section is the conversation itself, and she guides you through it with the laws of curiosity, listening, similarity and mood memory (becoming aware of the moods we carry with us and how that might affect the conversation). Finally, her last section is a guide to what to do after the conversation, explaining this through the laws of familiarity, giving, and patience. I found this to be the most helpful, as it focuses on how to maintain long-term relationships, with acquaintances and business associates alike, in sensible ways.
The introduction gives you a nice taste of who she seems to be as a person. She explains the personal situation that turned her on to studying likability. Most importantly, she admits that this book is very much the opposite of how she used to think about things, and that it is different than how many people still think about things. By explaining the context surrounding the book, Lederman makes it easier to become immersed in it and helps you to trust her as your narrator. Her ideas are easier to understand, absorb and practice when you know how she arrived at them.
Lederman’s personal stories are engaging. She often intertwines them along with her key points, so it is easy to get caught up in a few different stories. It certainly helped to keep my attention and it also proved that she designed her “laws” to work in everyday experiences. This book is the result of practice, not theory. The stories are not simply about Lederman herself, but also about people in her life: students, coworkers, old friends, etc. She explains both her connection to them and her ability to assess and understand them in the particular situation they are in. She guides you through her thought process, e.g., how she tried to find the good in a coworker with whom she simply did not enjoy working. If she had just trashed him, neither would have benefited; instead; she tried to discover some of his positive attributes. This resulted in a positive talk where they mutually decided to find him a job elsewhere in the company. He thrived in his new spot and she felt better about herself as a supervisor.
Lederman does not suggest her methods are an end to all your sleepless nights. Nor does it mean you’ll never frown again. But it is a realistic way to find and establish something positive in your life, rather than trying to endure the negative.
At the end, Lederman explains that this book is not meant to be linear, nor is it meant to be your only resource—it is a part of a network. She encourages you to absorb the parts of the books that you gravitate toward or to look to specific sections if you have a particular problem. Because she makes the book so accessible and malleable, I liked it more than I thought I would. Mostly, I found it helpful for how to govern relationships in the professional world, as they don’t always develop as naturally. The workplace can be a place of tension and Lederman’s book gives you a way to start finding relief.
The 11 Laws of Likability: Relationship Networking … Because People Do Business with People They Like
By Michelle Tillis Lederman
AMACOM, September 15, 2011
Paperback, 240 pages