Overcoming Fake Talk: About the Book

Watch the Book Trailer for Overcoming Fake Talk!


Bestselling author of The Speed of Trust and Smart Trust, Franklin Covey

 Overcoming Fake Talk is not only a terrific book title, it should be the mantra of anyone who’s determined to get consistently great results. Many well-intended people dance around the issues that beg for open and candid discussion. Trouble is, when the topic is risky they simply don’t have the skills to carry on a real conversation. So they engage in fake talk. Then, when the tough issues don’t get resolved, they engage in more fake talk and the cycle starts to resemble a scene from Groundhog Day. John Stoker’s book is a breakthrough because it so clearly identifies a common problem that few have really talked about and offers principles, practices, and skills so necessary for honest, trust-building conversation. If you’re truly interested in respect, relationships, and results, this book is for you."


New York Times bestselling author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There

 Nothing about authentic leadership is fake—and that includes all forms of talk and walk. So, if you are now a leader—or if you aspire to be a leaderyou need to learn how to have REAL conversations. John Stoker’s enlightening and entertaining book, Overcoming Fake Talk, will help you to gain and maintain influence with key stakeholders by holding real conversations that get results."



Everything we hope to achieve requires us to work and play well with others.
Be it in a professional or personal setting, our ability to communicate either creates respect, builds relationships, and achieves results, or it doesn’t! Overcoming Fake Talk will help you master the nuances and skills for holding REAL Conversations for results.



 Business professionals, leaders, managers, or individual contributors who need to hold difficult conversations on a daily basis.

 Innovators and entrepreneurs who depend upon the creative ideas of others to solve challenging problems.

 Teams who depend upon the contributions and collaboration of others to get things done.

 Any community, group, or organization that depends upon their influencing skills to achieve results.

 Anyone who is frequently involved in resolving conflict as a means of creating dynamic solutions.

 Couples, partners, and parents who need to talk about tough issues and maintain respect while building the relationship.

Dave Ulrich
Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; 
Partner, The RBL Group

John Stoker has been a white water rafter, an attorney, a speaker, and now a thoughtful writer. His book Overcoming Fake Talk is a thorough compendium of ideas, frameworks, examples, and actions to improve conversations. His 4 REAL conversation skills and 8 principles give the novice and master insights and guidelines for improving conversation. His book will help get people talking in ways that create respect, build relationships, and get results."

Rodger Dean Duncan
Bestselling author of Change-Friendly Leadership

John Stoker scores early and often with his groundbreaking book Overcoming Fake Talk. He begins with the premise that much of what passes for meaningful conversation is counterfeit because the participants either tiptoe around the real issues or ignore them altogether. Then he offers a wealth of easy-to-understand principles and practices that help you engage in the real conversations that produce deeper respect, better relationships, and stronger results. I like this book so much I wish I’d written it myself."

Ken Shelton
Editor of Leadership Excellence magazine and
author of
Beyond Counterfeit Leadership

For 30 years, I’ve tried to help people see the difference between fake (counterfeit) and real (authentic) leadership. John Stoker not only reveals fake talk, he also delivers spot-on advice for holding real conversations that cultivate relationships, respect and results. Read it and reap. You’ll be a better, more effective leader."



One of the distinguishing factors of this book is that the author goes beyond a simple explanation of what words to use to prescribe a step-by-step process for holding any conversation. He identifies a number of dynamics that influence conversational effectiveness, such as conversation styles, emotion, assumptions, intent, context, tone, tempo, reactive brain functions—and much more.

The author introduces eight principles that influence every conversation, no matter what conversation you need to hold. He introduces each principle and then provides a number of skills for practicing each principle. Here’s a sneak preview of the principles:

♦ Awareness—Learn to be conscious

♦ Knowledge—Know to do

♦ Reflection—Reflect reflections

♦ Perception—See outside yourself

♦ Preparation—Prepare or beware

♦ Expression—Express your intention

♦ Discovery—Ask to reveal

♦ Connection—Listen and attend to connect

Each principle is easy to understand and easy to apply to your greatest personal challenges. By the time you finish reading this book, you will want to hand it to every conversationally-challenged person you know. You will also recognize that this is the last communications book you will ever need!


Ed Oxford, Ed.D.
SVP, Human Resources and Chief Talent Officer, Banner Health

John R. Stoker’s book, Overcoming Fake Talk, is a natural extension of the training and leadership development he has provided within our company. His concepts are clear, his explanations down-to-earth, and in my experience, what he teaches really works. Our organization places great emphasis on the quality of our people, and on creating a healthcare and work environment where we treat each other with compassion, dignity, and respect—this book is a primer for developing precisely those characteristics."

Brent D. Peterson, Ph.D.
Co-author of Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder Than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem

 Wow! I just finished reading Fake Talk. I have taught communication skills for over forty years, I wish Fake Talk had been available forty years ago. The book provides the most needed and helpful communication tools in a very effective manner. Stoker teaches true principles for getting Results, Respect, and great Relationships using REAL Conversation."

John H. Zenger
CEO, Zenger Folkman

As Peter Drucker wisely observed, nearly all leadership and management challenges come back to breakdowns in communication. This book is an insightful blend of rock-solid theory accompanied by compelling examples of the huge distinction between real and fake communication. It would be hard to read it and not gain valuable tips."





John R. Stoker

For over 20 years, John R. Stoker has been facilitating and speaking to audiences, helping them to improve their thinking and communicating skills. He is an expert in communications who believes the human capacity to achieve astonishing results depends on the individual's ability to interact with others. John has dedicated his professional career to the science of communication and interpersonal interaction.

John holds a Master's Degree in Organizational Behavior as well as a J.D. Degree. His landmark book, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations that Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results is both entertaining and engaging, and it presents skills that help readers talk about what matters most.

In the past, John worked as a practicing criminal defense attorney (until he repented!), spent summers as a Grand Canyon white-water guide, and he taught for 13 years as a faculty member at a leading university. John has been happily married since 1994 and he and his wife Stephanie are the proud and busy parents of five children.




Norm Smallwood

Co-founder, The RBL Group; Co-author with Dave Ulrich of Leadership Sustainability.

 John has written an engaging book filled with interesting stories that guide the reader through the land mines of having difficult conversations. I can attest personally to the consequences of having bad results come from poorly managed conversations. I have had many. John gives me and others like me multiple ways to redeem myself in future conversations. John provides a step by step process to help us prepare to have REAL conversations that lead to positive results. We all know that tough conversations are not easy to have and can often spiral in a negative direction because we lack the skill and confidence to manage the process. John provides a step by step approach that give the reader the skills and confidence to have these conversations. This book balances the latest theory with real-world practical advice. The result- happier, more productive relationships with others. As John promises, this is the last book on having tough conversations that you need."

Beverly Kaye

Founder, Co-CEO: Career Systems International Co-author: Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want


 I love the title of this book! How often do we get the sense that another person is not speaking their truth? How often do we wear our own political or social masks in the workplace? What a great book to help us stop both of these disingenuous conversations and turn around the opportunities in front of us. This conversation book is truly worth adding to your shelf…and maybe even replacing others. The author knows his material and takes a straight-forward, practical look at the subject. He reframes old notions and applies the principles to anyone, anywhere, in any position. Great questions, great suggestions…that is, if you want to change. Bravo! I will put his ideas to use in my own practice.

Michael G. Winston

Past EVP and Global Head, Leadership and Organization Strategy; five Fortune 100 companies



 So many leaders have failed themselves, their families, their shareholders, and their neighbors on the most important of leadership behaviors: honesty, integrity and ethical decision-making.

Given the resultant state of the economy, geopolitical instability and competitive leadership challenges, I cannot imagine a strategy more necessary than REAL conversation. Overcoming Fake Talk by John R. Stoker provides sound principles, effective tools and compelling stories to encourage the practice of more authentic, transparent and impactful human interactions. A great storyteller, Mr. Stoker uses interesting and relevant stories to provide the rationale for the effectiveness of each tool and method. With proper application, one can use REAL conversations to achieve extraordinary results. In sum, it is a good primer to expand self-awareness and improve performance.

Hyrum W. Smith

Co-Founder, FranklinCovey

 Not only does Overcoming Fake Talk uncover the key principles to REAL conversations, but it offers a true road map to mastering the skills necessary for building lasting relationships.  Adhering and implementing to these principles will dramatically increase your ability to communicate and improve your relationships in your professional and personal life.

David Hanna

Principal, The RBL Group


 Overcoming Fake Talk is both profound and refreshing. Profound in its insights about how we converse with one another and how this impacts our personal and corporate success. Refreshing in that it is easy to read, uses many real-life examples, and offers the reader some real guidance. John Stoker becomes your coach, whose practical frameworks and case examples will prepare you for more productive discussions and then enable you to review them afterward to keep progressing.

Dennis S. Reina, Ph.D.

Co-author of award-winning, business best selling books Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace and Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace.

 John Stoker’s book Overcoming Fake Talk provides a very balanced approach to the art and science of conversation that engages your head, heart and hands—all essential elements to connect with people at a deeper, more meaningful level. This book gives you clear theory and the practical skills you need to achieve desired results, earn respect, and develop effective relationships, personally and professionally. I highly recommend it!

Kenneth R. Buser

President & CEO, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare–All Saints


 Now more than ever healthcare leaders are challenged with providing exceptional and compassionate service for our patients and families. As costs continue to increase and reimbursement declines, physicians, healthcare executives and associates must work together to reduce costs and increase efficiency. We must also improve our relationship with our community to strengthen its confidence that we will consistently deliver on our brand promise to provide an excellent patient and family experience. John Stoker’s book, Overcoming Fake Talk, teaches the skills and process for holding REAL Conversations that increase engagement and get results.


Ricardo Lillo

Ricardo Lillo

President and CEO of DOOR Training International


 John R. Stoker’s book Overcoming Fake Talk offers the principles, paradigms, and processes for holding REAL Conversations to enhance results while other authors only focus on the process for holding conversations that really matter. Not only does the author deal effectively with the psychology for holding any dificult conversation, but he also offers practical tools and techniques that can be applied in the toughest business and personal situations. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to hold REAL Conversations and build better relationships in their personal and professional lives.

Andrea Kates

Author of the best-selling business strategy book, Find Your Next



 REAL conversations help you find your competitive edge. In John Stoker’s book, Overcoming Fake Talk, he provides us with simple and profound skills for cultivating the ideas and energy that drive organizational change and innovation through people. Truly, the types of conversations we hold create respect, build relationships, and uncover opportunities for growth by tuning in to what people say in entirely new ways.


Roice N. Krueger

Author and Senior Consultant


 Overcoming Fake Talk is a must-read book for anyone wants to improve the effectiveness of their verbal communication. This insightful book is full of concise suggestions on how to dramatically improve interpersonal communications. It helps a person get their head right so they can have practical conversations that will get better results. It is easy to read and full of great illustrations that help the reader to remember the skills being taught.

Ralph Jacobson

Principal, The Leader’s Toolbox; Author, Leading for a Change: How to Master the Five Challenges Faced by Every Leader

 At the core of every change effort, conflict, feedback session, and dialogue is a one-to-one conversation. It is an essential yet often overlooked ingredient for success. Overcoming Fake Talk: Creating REAL Conversations for Results provides a comprehensive and practical approach to a topic all of us can improve.

Patricia Wheeler, Ph.D.

Contributor to Coaching for Leadership; Publisher, Leading News; Managing Partner, The Levin Group


 Thank you, John Stoker! Overcoming Fake Talk is a refreshing look at how to hold REAL conversations that get results. As an executive coach working with senior leaders around the globe, I know that conversation is the engine of how so much work gets done, and that far too much time and energy is wasted in unproductive communication (fake talk). I heartily endorse this book as a road-map and handbook for tough conversations, written in an engaging and entertaining style.


Dr. Bruce H. Jackson

CEO, The Institute of Applied Human Excellence and Author of Finding Your Flow


 John gets to the heart of effective communication and leadership "Fake Talk". The serious student of leadership will have multiple copies of this book on the shelf.

Dr. Steven Berglas

Former faculty member, Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry. Author of Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Can Overcome Burnout as well as numerous other books and articles.

 There is more in John Stoker’s Overcoming Fake Talk than a bookshelf of self-help books about communication, relationship building, and career advancement can hope to provide. In plain language—backed by hard scientific data—John lays out everything anyone needs to know about authentic connectedness with others. In a world gone mad with pseudo-intimacy and hypocrisy, Overcoming Fake Talk just might save us from the phony tweets, Facebook "likes," and all other manner of ersatz self-expression that threaten to erode the fabric of our society.