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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Rick Brandon writes about what inspires him, and the creative writing process that went into his new communication book, Straight Talk.

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Rick Brandon

Written by Rick Brandon

www.BrandonPartners.com

A Communication Junkie

I’ve been into communication literally since before I was even born, because I’m an identical twin, interacting EVEN as a fetus. Then I grew up in a “pathologically functional family (!)” with healthy interaction and positive communication.

I was into psychology way back. Other kids watched Batman and Zorro while I was hooked on The Eleventh Hour, about a psychiatrist. Who does that?! In high school I was enthralled by my honors class in psychology. As a teen, I marveled at my 8th grade-educated Dad’s magical rapport-building communication and connection–– whether with his furniture store customers or with audiences as the emcee at social events.

I embraced communication and relationship-building activities as high school student body president, sports team captain, and columnist for a local teen magazine. Cultivating connections and positivity was my bag all along.

Shrink Or Stretch?

During my undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D programs on psychology and counseling, I was turned on by teaching communication skills AND positive psychology. I abhorred the stereotype of therapists always analyzing people, focusing on their dysfunction, and putting them into little boxes with diagnostic label.

When friends or others cracked, “You’re a shrink, eh?” I’d quip, “Nope, I’m a stretch.” I’ve always preferred expanding people’s potential, extending the limits of their healthy functioning. So I dropped psychotherapy for a living and have taught communication skills in hundreds of companies and other organizations.

Straight Talk Now by Rick Brandon on The Table Read
Straight Talk Now

No surprise my two books are about influence and communication skills, written after clients urged me to “put this stuff out into the world.”

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Why Write Straight Talk NOW?

My first book, Survival of the Savvy had been a WSJ bestseller about navigating company politics with integrity. I admit there was a sense of satisfaction in seeing a stranger reading my book on an airplane, or having my kids say their friend’s Dad loved my book.

I won’t deny the thrill of picking up the Wall Street Journal in the 7-11 store, finding my just-released book on the bestseller list, and yelling, “Woo-hoo!!” The clerk muttered, “Hmm, this guy must love Slurpees.” So the thought of another well-received book was attractive.

But why was the optimal timing for writing the book in late 2019?

(1) The work world had migrated towards remote and hybrid work even before the pandemic, but now the trend was turbo-charged. COVID worsened people’s disconnection, social isolation, depersonalization, and sense of loneliness. Corny as it sounds, I hoped to richer relationships and connection through empathic listening, caring candor, and win-win agreements might ease the pain of the virus’ virtual volcano eruption.

(2) I didn’t envision Straight Talk as my “legacy,” since that would have been too self-important. Besides, I’m not ready to retire. I’m on a five-year plan, and I’ll let you know when the five years begin! Still, the thought of leaving my mark felt good. It felt time to put my workshop’s bottom line-oriented, “edu-taining” spin on interpersonal skills out into the world in book form.

(3) During COVID, my firms’ workshop business had dwindled, so I wanted to give the workshop to folks who’d never otherwise attend. Plus, the book might attract more Straight Talk clients.

Dr RIck Brandon The Table Read
Rick Brandon

(4) Finally, the lockdown meant dedicated writing time, so why not make chicken salad out of chicken poop?

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From Smooth Sailing to Icebergs         

Straight Talk’s book outline and proposal were a relative breeze; the book structure flowed readily from the workshop’s trainer guide. Using the same savvy, respected, well-connected agent was a no-brainer, and he landed an exciting contract in two days.

I wondered if the actual writing would be like my first book’s arduous slog– grueling ten-hour days locked in my tiny basement office (my “author’s haven” or “author’s hell” depending upon how the day went). Instead, COVID’s hit on training business allowed me to pace myself more casually and sanely. The book didn’t “write itself,” but the pre-existing workshop courseware led to smooth sailing and at times, even a sense of “flow.”

Later I was invigorated and excited by my creative collaboration with BenBella Books entailing developmental editing, jacket design, sales copy writing, internal graphics design, and myriad details.

A Humbling Self-Awareness Journey       

The comic strip character Pogo exclaimed, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” All authors encounter their own shadows and need others to point them out. As a copy editor, my brother Marlo used to point out problematic writing tendencies by sending authors relevant feedback messages stuffed into fortune cookies.

My own “fortune cookies” came from family and friends who steered me around my own self-defeating writing habits. I re-learned the importance of humility, a thick skin, and a non-defensive examination of my Achilles Heel weaknesses:

“Kill Some of Your Babies.” My writing style has always been to brainstorm all possible content and then whittle down. This always surfaced some good ideas, but also saddled me with too much content, forcing painful choices. My best friend and wife told me, “You have to kill some of your babies.” Nasty image but sage advice for a crisper book.

“Youth-anize.” I had to face facts. I had too many old guy phrases, jokes, and entertainment and sports references. My daughter Carrie saved me by “youth-anizing” the early manuscript, leading to a fresher, more contemporary “vibe.” (There’s another 70’s term! Where is Carrie now?).

• A Peek in the Mirror. Writing about assertive communication and listening skills forced me to hold myself accountable when I wasn’t walking the talk. Ugh. That darned accountability thing again! I can’t simply tell someone I get defensive with, “Oh, you don’t understand. I only listen when I’m being paid!” The book has prompted a humbling look in the mirror and self-directed expectation to hold myself to a higher standard. No cop-outs, excuses, or jokes to distract from greater ownership.

Physician, Heal Thyself. It’s said that we teach or write about what we most need to learn. The great Greek orator, Demonsthenes, was formerly a stutterer who daily put pebbles in his mouth to practice enunciation.  

My book teaches about altering out self-talk, that little voice in our heads. Sure enough, I continually need to remind myself at stressful times to “switch channels” from negative, pessimistic or discouraged mental programming to a calmer, more positive and hopeful self-talk. The book promotion phase has been a real field laboratory for cleaning up my internal attitude house.

Find more from Rick Brandon now:

People can find my workshop training and book info at www.BrandonPartners.com along with a video of me blabbing about the book and giving away the Straight Talk Assessment and other learning resources at www.BrandonPartners.com/StraightTalkBook. Please follow me at linkedin.com/in/rickbrandon.  And of course, the book is on Amazon.com: Straight Talk: Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment.

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