Book Review: Overcoming Fake Talk (by Having Intentional, Results-Oriented Conversations)

The following is a book review of John R. Stoker’s new book Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results

True confession: When I started reading this book, knowing that I’d review it, I was nervous that I’d have a hard time coming up with practical applications for the content.

I didn’t think I could manufacture opportunities to test the ideas.  The idea of having better conversations seemed so… mushy.

But, alas, I was wrong. The principles in the book have revolutionized my approach to conversations already, and I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface.

The BCC Situation

One opportunity came when I discovered management had been BCC’d on some emailed communication. I don’t like the fact that other people might be privy to a conversation, and I’m unaware of it.

Using some of the tools in the book, I sat down with the person and discussed it with some semblance of winsome candor.

The result? Greater understanding on both sides.

My little BCC incident story seems small, but in my experience, it’s the small, repeated sideways and dysfunctional conversations (or avoidance of conversations) that will erode a corporate culture over time.

After reading this book, I’ve decided to add a new mantra to my bag of tricks: “Conversations create culture.”

A corporate or even family culture will become, over time, the sum total of the conversations that take place among colleagues, clients, vendors, and other stakeholders.

Why Overcoming Fake Talk is Worth Your Time

It is well-written and clear and engaging, but it will also require work on your part. Don’t buy it expecting a lazy Sunday afternoon. This is a lunch pail type of book.

There are two key concepts in the book that make it worth your time:

  1. Conversations Lead to Results
  2. Intentionality in Our Conversations Is Imperative


(Positive) Results-Focused Conversations

Conversations yield results, one way or another. We don’t always like what those results are, and we don’t normally plan and name the results we are seeking. But in the end, there are results of nearly ever encounter with another individual.

Stoker mines this idea throughout the pages of the book, showing that Fake Conversations lead to poor results while REAL conversations lead to intended results.

If nothing else, I’ve noticed myself bringing additional care to my interactions. Each time I talk to someone, I’m either building or tearing down. Perhaps there are neutral conversations, but I’m struggling thinking up an example.

Since all conversations have results, I must do better at understanding myself and others in order to both identify results I’m seeking and help others identify and achieve the results they want from their interactions with me. It’s a two-way street, after all.

This book provides tools to identify and work toward positive results in our covnersations.

Stoker summarizes this idea of results beautifully when he discusses ‘Building’ in communication:

Building in conversation is about establishing accountability by finalizing a plan and gaining commitment to that plan. Simply, you want to build a plan, gain commitment, and increase individual accountability to achieve results. – p. 60

Intentionality is Imperative

Knowing the results desired and understanding people’s personality and approaches are one thing, actually knowing how to engage is another.

Stoker teaches his reader to be prepared and to have a plan. Often we mentally rehearse conversations, but don’t stop to actually identify the results and create a plan to be intentional.

The key part about having a plan is to learn to clear the mind and heart of preconceptions and assumptions:

We all make assumptions, judgments, and evaluations about certain people in certain situations. They are influenced by our mental models and out history with the individual…. Take a moment to surface and challenge your assumptions. – p. 130

This idea is groundbreaking to me, and I believe we would all avoid downward spiraling conversations if we took a moment to believe the best and check our assumptions at the door before we rush in to a difficult conversation.

Who Would Benefit From This Book

Anybody would, but in a corporate setting, human resources, managers, and team leaders would benefit greatly from this book.

Individuals who are leaders-in-the-making and want to “lead up” in their organizations could gain a lot of wisdom by reading and applying the principles in this book to their interactions with supervisors and managers.


The book is highly practical and incisive into the way we have conversations. Overcoming Fake Talk is not a simple thing to do, but hopefully this can help you hold REAL Conversations (read the book to learn the acrostic) and see better results in your daily life and work.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, click here to go to Overcoming Fake Talk’s Amazon page. (affiliate link)

Please note that I received the book for my honest review. Above is my fair assessment. 

REAL Acrostic

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