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"Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World" | Reviewed by Bill Schwab

With a pleasant blend of autobiography and self-help guidance, Jen Psaki draws on her 20 years of public service to give readers a close-up view of American politics. The memoir-advice book also includes examples of her effort to balance family and work.

Psaki delivers a wide-ranging analysis of political communication, including keen insights into the challenges of successful exchanges in highly charged confrontations and traumatic situations. She maintains that an effective communicator carefully selects every word to promote understanding, de-escalate conflict, and encourage positive change.

The author shares her journey to the White House briefing room, beginning with her work on three political campaigns, then a stint at the State Department, and then serving as President Obama's communications director and the press secretary for the Biden administration. She writes humorously about working under bosses ranging from the hot-tempered Rahm Emanuel to the remarkably patient John Kerry. On the first day of her job as White House press secretary, she was determined to "reset the tone in the briefing room and hopefully take some of the venom out" of the combative exchanges common during President Trump's Administration.

Psaki imparts practical advice about active listening, setting boundaries, addressing gossip, and using wit to curb tense situations. She uses her blunders as examples of gaffes to avoid. Her light-heartedness is refreshing and eases lingering embarrassments from readers' mortifications. Her self-deprecating humor exhibits the value of learning from mistakes. "Becoming a strong communicator," she writes, "means being open to screwing up and improving after making mistakes; it requires listening to feedback both good and bad; and it requires a lot of practice."

After 16 months at the White House, Psaki launched a highly-rated program on MSNBC, where her success resulted in her receiving additional airtime. Two young children and her husband meet her when she arrives home, typically after a long workday. At bedtime, her children are allowed to ask three questions. One evening, her young daughter asked, "Why do wars start?" Psaki carefully crafted and refined a suitable answer for the child, who immediately asked for a follow-up. "Have you ever seen a unicorn?" Her guidance about parent-child communication is straightforward and delightful.

"Say More" is a helpful volume for anyone wanting to become a better communicator and manage complex discourse honestly and graciously. Psaki is a skilled storyteller whose anecdotes convey insightful knowledge with vulnerability. Her book is appropriate for anyone regardless of experience, potential as a leader, or the desire to relate to people on a deeper level.

About the author: Jen Psaki hosts MSNBC's "Inside with Jen Psaki." She served as the 34th White House press secretary under President Joe Biden and as White House communications director under President Barack Obama. Before working at the White House, she served as the spokesperson for the State Department under then-Secretary of State John Kerry and worked on three presidential campaigns.

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