Book Review by Taylor Berrett
While Trey Gowdy isn’t the first author to connect courtroom strategies to improved communication in business and everyday life, he might be one of the most engaging. His book, Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade, benefits greatly from his willingness and ability to mine his personal life and experiences engagingly, effectively, and with a healthy dose of humility and self-deprecation. The reader is left with the sense that Gowdy is an impressively self-aware author, learning from his own failures as well as his successes.
Gowdy’s life certainly serves as an interesting context for the principles in the book. A former Congressman and legal prosecutor, Gowdy brings communication from both the legal and political realms to provide some fascinating insights and actionable advice.
From conversations with friends and family to high-stakes boardroom battles, Gowdy attempts to use his wide ranging experience to improve communication across a massive spectrum of applications—and he mostly succeeds.
Persuasion and Connection
The book could be roughly segmented into two ‘halves.’ In the first, Gowdy focuses mainly on managing conversations and discussions between two open-minded sides with different but compatible views. It’s focused on how to be a better communicator generally in life— how to assess your own communication goals, what’s going on inside the mind of your audience, and how to connect those two things effectively.
Readers looking to generally improve their powers of communication and persuasion in life and business may find the most of value in this first half of the book, where the principles can be applied most widely to their circumstances. It’s here where Gowdy taps into some universal truths about communication that anyone can benefit from— truths that can have a major impact if applied.
The second section of the book, however, seems to focus more specifically on the world of prosecution and formal debate.
The Bottom Line
Much of the power of Doesn’t Hurt to Ask comes from the unique background and experience of its author. Meanwhile, Gowdy communicates anecdotes, stories, and lessons with a storyteller’s skill. It’s no surprise— both his work as a congressman and prosecutor require skill at creating and communicating a compelling narrative.
In fact, transferring this ability to readers seems to be one of Gowdy’s ultimate goals. His advice boils down to focusing on asking yourself key questions to understand your own path. Who is your audience? What are their expectations? What are you trying to accomplish with your message? According to Gowdy, knowing the answers to these questions will set you on a greater path to better communication and persuasion in life and business.
While not all of the experiences Gowdy shares from his life in the courtroom translate clearly to other areas, there’s still plenty to be learned for readers in any field. That said, those with an interest or background in law will absolutely get more out of the book.
Overall, Doesn’t Hurt to Ask is an excellent, informative, and engaging journey into how great communicators, persuaders and negotiators do what they do best.
Taylor Berrett is a freelance writer, editor, and host of the podcast Alone in a Room. His other book reviews can be found here.