How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Larry King — Book Summary & Discussion
A complete guide on how to be a great conversationalist
Everyone wants and tries to be charismatic. There are hundreds of books, thousands of YouTube videos, and way too much contradictory advice that seeks to answer the mystery of how to charm the person that we want — or need — to impress.
I’ve read countless of books, watched tons of videos, and listened extensively to people’s advice regarding the many different aspects of this topic. Every possible situation, different cultural contexts, the personality of your interlocutor — all of these add on to the complexity. But none of the sources I’ve previously referred to cover the topic as well as Larry King does in his book, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.
Indeed, true to the title, King covers every possible context in which you need social interaction — from funerals to business negotiations. In this article, I will summarize the key points of his book into four main parts:
- Engaging in one-on-one conversations,
- Charming a social group,
- Effective business communication, and
- Winning your audience over during public speaking.
I’ll provide King’s points in succinct bullet points — as he spends the majority of his book explaining via anecdotes — so you can copy them in your journal and refer to them when you need to. Additionally, I will also be providing my personal commentary and thoughts on the application of his principles.
How to engage in one-on-one conversations
- Be honest. If you’re nervous, just admit that you are. Don’t try to present yourself as someone who you are not — it will appear insincere and inauthentic.
- Show sincere interest in the other person. Being genuinely interested in the other person from your heart is far superior to having actively remember to nod a certain amount of times or tilt your body towards them a specific degree.
- Be open about yourself. Vulnerability builds connection, but don’t be too vulnerable. Try to imagine what you would like the other person to be open about — and be open only to that extent.
- Look at people in the eye and lean forward. Again, if you are sincerely interested, you will already be doing this unconsciously. But it is still useful to remember this concretely.
- Everybody is an expert at something — express interest at their expertise. Try to identify what they are passionate about and ask them questions about it. Be genuinely interested in their explanation.
- People care more about whether or not you are interested rather than whether you are their equal. Most people’s concern when it comes to trying to charm others is that they worry about not being “good enough”. Fortunately, most people don’t care about things like your social status or whether you “measure up” to them. What they care about is whether you care about them.
- Ask them about themselves. People love to talk about themselves more than they like hearing about you — no matter how interesting your life really is.
- Listen to them. Nobody will talk extensively unless they have an audience who actively listens.
- Ask questions they enjoy answering. By listening, you will naturally have interesting questions come to your head. It’s much better than preparing questions in advance; listening allows better improvisation.
- Your body language must not be forced, it must be natural. Don’t listen to advice like T-posing to assert dominance if you don’t find this natural. Just do what makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin!
Application from insights
Reading this chapter helped me gain a lot of confidence in conversation. I used to think too much about “rules” such as what this body pose means or how much eye-contact is appropriate.
However, after letting things flow naturally, I came to the conclusion that by just simply being sincere, it removed a lot of anxiety in conversing. I most especially love King’s point about listening and having questions naturally come to your head.
I used to keep a set of questions in my notebook to ask a friend before I go about meeting them, and it sounds like an interview. Now, I don’t prepare anything — to my surprise, interesting questions arise naturally just based on what the other person is saying.
How to charm a social group
- If you want to excuse yourself from a conversation, say: “Would you excuse me? I’m going to go say hello to our host.” (Or “… to a friend I haven’t seen in a while.”)
- The more people are in your conversational group, the briefer your story should be. You don’t want to hog the conversation; everyone should have an equal amount of time speaking.
- Don’t ask a person so many questions like you’re interviewing them for a book. While it is important to ask meaningful questions, don’t go overboard!
- To talk to the opposite sex, be authentic. You can say something like: “I’m not really good at this. I don’t strike up a conversation very well with someone I’ve just met. But I’d enjoy talking to you for a few minutes. My name is….”
- Talk to people of different backgrounds to broaden your thinking. Approach people from different industries, generations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Everyone has a unique perspective you might not be aware of before.
- Don’t force humor, let it come naturally. Don’t say that you are going to say a joke before you say the joke. Just slip it in without anyone knowing you intended to be funny — and only when it is related to where the conversation was heading before.
- Everyone has a distinct way of speaking — develop your own style. It is a more productive use of your time to imitate speakers that are already close to your way of speaking — or even better, just refine your existing style of speaking — instead of trying to copy someone not even remotely close to your temperament.
- Avoid slang or pompous language. Try to imagine great quotes in history using slang or overly pretentious language — it probably wouldn’t stick as well.
Application from insights
I used to find it difficult to navigate situations such as wanting to end a conversation — because sometimes, my social battery runs out. So, I tried using similar lines as the ones King provides, and they work wonders!
Moreover, I used “like” and other similar filler words before. Now, I will try to be conscious of their usage and reduce them over time. While there is nothing wrong with using contractions and slangs when talking to familiar people, avoiding them creates a much better impression on people you are not very close to.
Furthermore, the point about talking to different people is an excellent one. Meg Jay made a similar point in The Defining Decade, where she argues that “weak ties” get you to more places than “strong ties”.
With close friendships, they tend to have similar views and personalities, so if you immerse yourself in the same environment for too long, mere differences will start to look like flaws. Meanwhile, distant relationships are actually the ones that will broaden your horizons.
How to communicate effectively in the business world
- Know what you’re selling; and once the deal is closed, stop selling. You want to inform your customer and win them over, not irritate them after.
- Know the advantages of the product to the consumer, not the features. The customer cares more about their personal experience using the product, not the technical details.
- Show enthusiasm in job interviews — don’t be too business-like. Enthusiasm can even get you a leg up other more qualified candidates.
- Preparation is key. Go over the key points you want to make about yourself. Jot them down and review them before the interview.
- Ask a positive question that links the company’s values with their performance. If the company is an industry leader, ask about their success. If the company is not an industry leader, ask: “Which companies in your industry do you feel you’d most like to resemble? And how do you plan to achieve that?”
- Good questions to ask your boss: “I have the feeling I could be doing my job more effectively. Can you help me understand what areas I should concentrate on?” Or “I’m not sure I understand how to go about this project. It would help me if you could explain what steps I should be taking first.”
- Communicating with subordinates: Talk to them on a regular schedule, tell them what kind of a job they’re doing, where you think they could improve, and what you’d like them to concentrate on in the next evaluation period.
- If you need info from your boss, contact their assistant first. This will show that you appreciate the assistant’s work and abilities and not burden the boss unnecessarily.
- Your appearance and body language matters. Try to come off as powerful — how would your boss act and dress?
- Try to not host meetings unless necessary. Meetings can be a huge time-drainer.
- Speak minimally in meetings and prepare beforehand. Don’t waste people’s time in meetings.
Applications from insights
The point about promoting the benefits of a product or service instead of their features works.
I once had the pleasure of being the customer of a talented real estate agent. Instead of telling me, “This apartment building has a reception service,” which I said I didn’t care about, she said, “The reception services keep you safe from people who might follow you. Since you are a girl living alone without your parents, I will be concerned about the safety.”
Her point won me over.
How to win your audience over during public speaking
- Look at the audience. Don’t read from the script or stare at a point in the wall. Look at different sections of the audience occasionally. Don’t neglect the people sitting on the right or left of the crowd by only addressing people in the center.
- Know the pacing and inflection you want to use. A monotone speech with interesting content would only carry the audience into deep slumber.
- Never deliberately introduce a joke. Slip it in the speech without prior anticipation.
- How to get out of a question you can’t answer: Say, “It would be premature for me to answer that question now.”
Application from insights
I used to be known as an overly serious and unfunny person. So, I stopped trying to make jokes because no one would laugh. But now I know the reason why!
By pre-emptively mentioning a joke is coming, people already have the expectation to laugh. When they don’t, it becomes very apparent. But if you slip it in mid-conversation, they will laugh, as they didn’t expect anything.
Furthermore, knowing the pacing and the inflection of your words strongly determines speech quality. Introverts can use this to their advantage by saying minimal words and still deliver a strong impact.
What matters in a presentation is what the listener takes and remembers out of it, not how much information the presenter presents.
For anyone seeking to improve their communication skills — in any area of life — Larry King’s How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere is a must-read.
An effective communicator, Larry King doesn’t waste your reading time with unnecessary details. He gets straight to the point, supplemented with memorable examples to back up his arguments.
The examples he provides consist of his personal experiences as a successful talk show host, alongside real stories of successful men and women in history using effective communication to reach their goals.
Even though his work is short and succinct, he still covers communication advice in great detail, covering very specific situations such as weddings, cocktail parties, business negotiations, job interviews, and even funerals!
His book is THE complete guide on how to be a great conversationalist; far superior to any book covering similar topics I’ve read to this day. I wish I read King’s work much earlier in my youth — he would’ve saved me from too much social embarrassment!