The Art of Civilized Conversation

THE ART OF CIVILIZED CONVERSATION coverA Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace
Author Margaret Shepherd
Narrated by Donna Postel
Published by Tantor
Publication date Jan 2, 2018
Running time 6 hrs 13 min

I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

In our fast-paced, electronic society, the most basic social interaction—talking face-to-face—can be a challenge for even the most educated and self-assured individuals. And yet making conversation is a highly practical skill: those who do it well shine at networking parties, interviews, and business lunches. Good conversation also opens doors to a happier love life, warmer friendships, and more rewarding time with family.

In The Art of Civilized Conversation, author Margaret Shepherd offers opening lines, graceful apologies, thoughtful questions, and, ultimately, the confidence to take conversations beyond hello.From the basics—first impressions, appropriate subject matter, and graceful exits—to finding the right words for difficult situations and an insightful discussion of body language, Shepherd uses her skilled eye and humorous anecdotes to teach listeners how to turn a plain conversation into an engaging encounter.

Filled with common sense and fresh insight, The Art of Civilized Conversation is the perfect inspiration not only for what to say but for how to say it with style.


My Take Oblong Shaped


One of my resolutions this year was to be better at conversation: Listen more, swear less, ask questions, etc. When I saw this book from Tantor I knew I had to listen to it. Shepherd is an expert calligrapher, and according to the Tantor website, “Each year she speaks at MIT’s “charm school” about the importance of gracious communication.” (  While I don’t know if that qualifies her as an “expert” she certainly seems to have a good grasp of the topic. 

This is the first book I have listened to with narration by  Donna Postel and she did an outstanding job with a pleasant, expressive voice, well-modulated delivery and no trace of the pedantic. I really liked the quality of her narration.

The thing about a self-development book is that it assumes two things: that you want to change something and you are willing to pay attention to your behavior in regards to it.   But, conversation is so constant, necessary and ubiquitous that habits can be particularly hard to change. 

Shepherd’s book is exhaustive in it’s scope of human conversation: I think almost every possible context of communication is covered.  Perhaps it leaves out only family communication. I liked the section on how to have conversations with people with disabilities and the section on how to speak with people of different ages. 

It is exhaustive, and there’s a lot of information and instruction.  I felt there were a few too many personality squelching no-nos; I would fear being a bit of a robot if I took her instruction to much to heart.

And, while the information is valuable and the narration excellent, it is hard to take in large doses.  In large doses it was a sleep-aid. And, the narration provided the intonation that lightens the mood and prevents the subject from being too dry.  It is hard to go back and forth in an audiobook which I think is an issue, in general, with non-fiction in this format.

Did it help me? Well the proof will be in the pudding: I tried to employ some of the techniques in my bookclub meeting the other day.

If you are just starting out after school, need a graduation present for a teen or college grad or know someone trying to improve their sales technique, moving to a new area or otherwise entering a new arena then this is worth the listen.

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