Talking to the world

With the new book ‘How to Talk to Anyone About Anything’ Linden Hills author and flirtologist Jill Spiegel has transitioned from dating advice to advising the world to speak up and feel the magic

You can learn a lot about America by reading best-seller lists: What inspires us, what we fear, what gives us hope and what presents a challenge. The best-seller list is a litmus test of the national mindset.

A recent incarnation of the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list included diet tips from the world of modeling, a how-to for spouses on unconditional love and an upbeat prescription for financial success in a downbeat market.

Health, love and money preoccupy a 21st-century America that, at every flick of the remote control, is bombarded by slim-waisted women hawking low-calorie snacks, aging couples dancing on the beach (thanks to advancements in pharmaceutical technology) and the latest figures on bankruptcies, foreclosures and the national debt.

Yet it’s the last issue — America’s thinning pocketbook — that has today’s forward thinkers casting back to last century and the lessons of the Great Depression. Of course, the period that gave rise to Social Security and the New Deal, also spawned the emergence of the self-help movement.

What Dale Carnegie began in 1936 with the publication of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Jill Spiegel, Linden Hills, continues in 2008 with “How to Talk to Anyone About Anything: The Secrets to Connecting.”

With her latest book, Spiegel joins the ranks of Carnegie’s self-empowerment progeny, people like Oprah, Dr. Phil and Rhonda Byrne, whose best-selling book (“The Secret”) has popularized visualization and the law of attraction as tools to material success.

Like Oprah, Spiegel has a Chicago connection — she was born in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb; and like Byrne, she encourages her seminar participants to seek magic in every connection. In fact, magic is the cornerstone of Spiegel’s message — the magic of communication.

“Everything in life is based on relationships,” Spiegel says. “The relationship you have with yourself, which is the mindset of connection. The relationship you have with life, expecting positive things. The relationship you have with coworkers and family.”

Spiegel has been speaking about, teaching and publishing her message since the early ’90s. Her first book, “Flirting for Success,” came out in 1994, followed by “The Pocket Pep Talk” and “Flirting with Spirituality.”

The titles of her books, added to her natural perkiness, earned Spiegel a spot on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” as guest dating expert, and led eventually to her identification as the Flirtologist. In 2004, Spiegel wrote “The Flirtologist’s Guide to Dating.”

Explaining the absence of “flirting” in her latest book, Spiegel says: “I’ve always been about communication. But sometimes when people hear flirting, they think, this must be a book or seminar on slinking and winking.”

Not that Spiegel disowns the name that’s made her a rising figure on the motivational circuit. Spiegel as the Flirtologist has appeared before corporate seminars, conferences, community education classes, and on hundreds of television and radio programs.

But with “How to Talk to Anyone About Anything,” Spiegel aims to reach an even larger audience. To do that, she needed to cut to the core.

“How to Talk to Anyone About Anything” tells it like it is: Spiegel wants to teach the world to communicate better, more often and with less fear. Sections from the book include tips on starting and building conversations, taking connections to the next level and 10 conversation savers.

“Do you know the four words people dread most?” Spiegel asks her seminar participants, people who’ve rolled out of bed early to spend their Saturday morning in a classroom. Spiegel pauses. “What — do — you — do?  What do you do, Mary?”

The audience laughs.

“Don’t we dread that? All of a sudden you feel like you have to say something grandiose, like ‘I’m going to Europe’ or ‘I bought a Porsche.’”

Spiegel goes on to relate the story of another seminar participant — an accountant who went from “I’m an accountant” (Spiegel supplies a sheepish look) to “I have the best job in the world. I’m an accountant. I love working with numbers, and outside my window is a playground, so I get to hear children laughing and playing all day.”

Spiegel has her students rise. Most do so with effort. It’s their day off. They were hoping to sit back and coast.

For the next 15 minutes, participants try out their “What Do You Do?” speeches, honing them with every interaction, growing more animated. Spiegel finally calls the class to order — twice. The students are still talking as they resume their seats.

“Every time we open our mouths,” Spiegel addresses her students, “we change the world with what we say. There’s magic in communication, and I believe that life always puts people in our path we’re meant to meet.”

Spiegel’s seminars and books are peppered with stories — those of people who’ve attended her seminars, but particularly her own. She recalls a recent plane trip in which, as usual, she struck up a conversation with the passenger next to her, a business executive. When it came time to exchange business cards, the man’s mouth gaped.

“You won’t believe this,” he told her. “Just last week I was telling people at work that I want to get into motivational speaking. A man at work said, ‘If only you could find some way to sit next to Jill Spiegel.’”

Events like that abound in Spiegel’s life. She’s burned through five books recounting them. The sales job after college, which led Spiegel to her first speaking gigs at sales conferences. A man at one of those conferences who came up afterwards to say, “I can see you speaking to the world.” Meeting her husband and business partner Joe Brozic, whom Spiegel calls “the man behind the scenes.”

Spiegel finishes her class in a whirl of energy.

“And just so you know,” she tells her students, “I give great hugs.”

The Saturday morning crowd hustles up to have books signed, and to hug the woman who has them chattering to the door.

“Energy is so contagious,” Spiegel muses afterwards. “And you always want to leave people feeling inspired.”

Contributing writer Britt Aamodt lives in Linden Hills.

Jill Spiegel offers one-day seminars throughout the Twin Cities. A full listing of seminars can be found on Spiegel’s website