These Horns Ain't For Tootin'

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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This edition of Jim's Book Club I approach with some trepidation. I do so for a couple of reasons, most notably that the book, "Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It" by Peggy Klaus (Warner Business Books, $24.95), is geared primarily to the corporate world. Not only is that not our world, but a good many of us here in the Rim country came to escape the games people play in that world.

But if we are truly all brothers and sisters living in a global community, then the pointers contained in Klaus' book should be of value to anyone anywhere -- much as the 10 Commandments. Let's see if that theory holds, with, of course, our specific adaptations to the Rim country.

In a chapter called "Brag Nags," Klaus lists eight cautions for the fledgling bragger -- "elements of your delivery that you absolutely must get right to be a successful bragger."

1. BORE NO MORE

Be yourself, Klaus admonishes. Forget rigid formulas taught in Presentation Training 101 like "never put your hands in your pockets, on your hips, in front of your crotch, or behind your back.

Rim country adaptation: Unless, of course, something really itches.

2. BRING YOUR BEST SELF FORWARD

Be yourself rather than clinging "to a kind of mythic professional persona under the banner of the ‘corporate citizen.'" The latter makes you come off "aloof, unanimated and unemotional."

Rim country adaptation: Unless, of course, aloof, unanimated and unemotional is preferable to your natural personality.

3. RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This will blow you away:

"Communication research has shown that within the first one-thousandth of a second of meeting you, those on the receiving end have already started clicking off judgments about you," Klaus writes. "Within seven seconds, they're trying to determine whether they like and trust you .... If they can't decide within that time frame, they spend the next 30 to 60 seconds going through a critical checklist in their heads about you."

Rim country adaptation: In case you needed a reminder of why you opted for a slower-paced rural lifestyle.

4. ACT LIKE YOUR BEST SELF (EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT)

No matter how out of sorts or tired you are, or how much you'd rather be somewhere else, "rise to the occasion" by going "Over the Top (OTT)" -- pumping yourself up by reciting expressions like, "I am so happy to be here!"

Rim country adaptation: And if that doesn't work, recite, "I'm getting the hell out of here," and go home.

5. CONVEY EXCITEMENT ABOUT YOUR WORK AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

"People want to listen to people who are excited about who they are, what they do, and what they are saying," Klaus writes.

Rim country adaptation: Be sure to spit to punctuate dramatic pauses as you talk, which generates a mesmerizing rhythm that gives added impetus to your words (as long as you don't spit on your listener's boots).

6. SCHMOOZE!

Far from the "superficial or even manipulative chatter that one is forced to engage in at social events," good schmoozers are "superb conversationalists" marketing themselves in an "ideal way."

Rim country adaptation: One "schmooze" that seems to work most of the time at Rim country social events (i.e., rodeo steakfrys): "You look like you'd be one hell of a bull rider, boy howdy."

7. TAKE THE EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE OF YOUR LISTENERS

Determine who your audience is and what they need and then customize your message accordingly.

Rim country adaptation: In most cases, this will work: "You look like you'd be one hell of a bull rider, boy howdy."

8. LEVERAGE THE POWER OF HUMOR, STORIES AND ANECDOTES

Pretty much self-explanatory.

Rim country adaptation: In the Rim country, great humor inevitably begins, "Did you hear the one about the rancher's daughter?"

Of course there's a lot more to "Brag!" than the tips I've shared with you, but you get the picture.

Now I need to tell you the other reason for my trepidation. Peggy Klaus is my sister-in-law. But lest you think there is a conflict of interest here, I'm pretty sure all I've accomplished in this column is to fix it so she'll never speak to me again.

And if not, this will clinch the deal:

At the end of "Brag!" Klaus writes: "Put (a horn) in the hands of someone who knows how to play, and it's music to the ears."

When we play with horns in these parts, Peggy, we call it steer wrestlin'. But you look like you'd be one hell of a bull rider, boy howdy!

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