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Doesn't Hurt to Ask

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Trey Gowdy has written an excellent book on persuasion! He uses the art of asking questions to persuade, clearly outlines the best way to deliver a persuasive speech, argument, and/or debate whether persuading a classroom audience, jury in a courtroom, family members, or other types of audiences. Trey Gowdy tells his personal stories, experiences, and observations made while being a criminal prosecutor and United States congressman. Wonderful read for anyone interested in sharpening his/her communication skills! Thoroughly enjoyable!
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Trey Gowdy's Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade was interesting. Four stars.
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Book Review: Doesn’t Hurt to Ask by Trey Gowdy
Posted on August 28, 2020	by Kevin Holtsberry / 0 Comment	

I work in the field of communications and politics has been an interest of mine since high school.  So when I was offered a chance to review Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade by Trey Gowdy I quickly grabbed if for my Kindle from NetGalley.

It was a frustrating read.  I enjoyed it in many ways but in others ways it was hard to get a handle on. As it does so often, it comes down to expectations and how much you enjoy a blending of genres and topics.  There is a lot of good advice about how to argue and communicate, and Gowdy has a light, humorous and engaging style, but the blending of memoir and self-help with a heavy helping of legal and political context undercut the clarity for me.

The publisher’s description was what I had in mind when I started reading:

    You do not need to be in a courtroom to advocate for others. You do not need to be in Congress to champion a cause. From the boardroom to the kitchen table, opportunities to make your case abound, and Doesn’t Hurt to Ask shows you how to seize them. By blending gripping case studies from nearly two decades in a courtroom and four terms in national politics with personal stories and practical advice, Trey Gowdy walks you through the tools and the mindset needed to effectively communicate your message.

From this description, and the title and subtitle, it sounds like a book on communication and persuasion. And that is what I was most interested in learning about: “Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade.”

But it might more accurately be titled: “How to argue like a prosecutor.” Most of Gowdy’s approach to communication comes from that perspective; and the book is full of stories of cases he handled and of his experience as a Congressman acting as a prosecutor of sorts.

The connection between persuasion and these cases, however, isn’t always crystal clear or at least wasn’t to me. In other words, translating persuasion from the courtroom and the committee room to the kitchen table isn’t always obvious and intuitive. Perhaps, this is my anti-lawyer bias coming through…The other chunk of the book is memoir; information about Gowdy’s life, relationships and career. And as noted above, Gowdy’s humorous and self-deprecating style makes for easy reading but it wasn’t always clear how the various pieces and parts worked together. Is this a memoir, self-help book, or argument about persuasion?  All three mixed together.

That said, much of what Gowdy outlines is worthwhile. The core of his advice is to ask yourself questions about what you are trying to accomplish, who your audience is, what the expectations of your audience is, and how high the bar is set. Knowing the answers to these questions gives you the best chance to be successful.  If you don’t have a background in communications or much experience, this is great advice.  Thinking these issue through will make a big impact.

He also outlines some strategies for situations of high stakes communications and walks the reader through how asking questions can be used to attack and to defend.  But the focus on courts and judicial structures, and on his own life and experience, came at the expense of some clarity and focus in my opinion.

For example, the early sections of the book seem to be applicable to conversations and discussion where both sides are open to learning and new ideas but by the second half the tactics discussed seem much more appropriate to formal debate and presentations or at least arguments about issues. A discussion of the tactics used in, and the challenges of, Congressional hearings might be interesting, for example, but it is not easily connected to dinner table conversations or even boardrooms.

Throughout the book Gowdy makes it clear he is not seeking to make political arguments and that he wants readers from all parts of the spectrum to be able to engage with his ideas.  And he is fair and open minded.  But I think this book is likely to appeal to readers who are already fans of the former congressman, and are familiar with his career, and share his perspective or background in some way (southern, conservative, Christian).

Gowdy has a good-natured style and tone and, not surprisingly, can be an effective communicator. But as someone who works in communications, I am not sure I would recommend this book to those seeking to get better at persuasion unless they had an interest in politics and/or the law.

If you are a fan of Gowdy you will enjoy this book. If you are interested in learning more about Gowdy you will probably enjoy this book too. If you enjoy learning about politics and the law from someone who has practiced in the field at the highest levels you will enjoy this book.

If your main desire is to get better at communication there are probably better sources.
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Former U.S. Representative and federal prosecutor, Trey Gowdy, shares his experience on “effective communication and how to persuade or move others.”  Not only is this a must read for budding attorneys but for everyone wishing to influence others.
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Trey Gowdy served in the U.S. Congress for 8 years, gaining national prominence for his role in the Benghazi hearings.  Drawing on his years in Congress and his career as a prosecutor, he has written Don't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade.  While the work of a prosecutor or a congressman chairing a hearing could be described as winning arguments, Gowdy said that in congress he "realized persuasion is not about winning arguments--it's about effectively and efficiently advocating for what it is you believe to be true."  He writes that by asking "the right set of questions," you can direct someone to "arrive at the point you are trying to make on their own accord."

Gowdy's persuasive chops were honed in courtroom and in Congress.  The examples he gives and the stories he tells draw from that experience, including cases he has prosecuted.  He also tells stories from the congressional hearings that made him a household name.  The main thrust of the book, however, is not a memoir of his life as a lawyer and congressman, but to describe principles that we can use in non-lawyer and non-lawmaker settings.

One lesson Gowdy learned in Washington is that South Carolina is a much more conservative place than D.C. and that heading to Congress with an expectation of gaining consensus is "not only a silly expectation, it's a disrespectful one."  He learned not to seek or expect consensus but that "commonality is an admirable and reasonable" expectation.

Gowdy is a funny, self-effacing writer, so you can read this for his personality and stories.  Some of his personal stories, like talking football with his brother-in-law or deflecting political questions from his golf buddies, are hilarious.  But more than that, he really does give tools and ideas for questioning and persuading.  Whatever role we are in, even if not in a courtroom or hearing room, his ideas will help you persuade and communicate.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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Trey Gowdy shares in in his book, Doesn’t Hurt to Ask, the effective and powerful communication success strategies he’s honed as a seasoned prosecuting attorney and congressman. Stressing the virtue and power of thought-provoking questions, Gowdy outlines how crafting and delivering the right query, and following it up with deep listening, is the key to getting results for ourselves and those we want to help. Continued......
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I was pleasantly surprised by humorous yet insightful this book was. It was part self-help, biography/memoir, politics but it was also about the importance of asking for what you want. I loved his personal stories throughout his career and his observations. I didn't expect to like this as much as I did and get wait for a hard copy. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley, Trey Gowdy and Crown Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 8/8/20
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I have loved Trey Gowdy since I got into politics. He has always been persuadable, which this book is about. Being persuadable is something we often view as negative but it's so much more than what it is seen as. Being persuadable is also something people struggle with. Gowdy shares personal anecdotes such as his time in the courtroom to his friend Senator Tim Scott (another favorite of mine). It is extremely well-written and conversational. I can't wait to buy the physical copy when it publishes on August 18, 2020.
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This is a wonderful book for anyone who needs help (don't we all!) in making a case for ourselves (why should I be hired for a job? Why should a bank give me a loan? Why should my  husband consider moving to a warm state?). Told with humor, and often humble, this is a great sort of biography but mostly great information on how to persuade honestly and authentically.
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