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“Friends, Enemies, and Everyone In Between”, with Irina Avtsin

Last month we were graced by Irina’s presence as she told us about her book, Rediscovering The Power of “No”, and today she’ll give us a peek at her new book Friends, Enemies, and Everyone In Between.

Irina, welcome back to the blog :-) Would you remind us about your background, the purpose of your consulting service, and your current business activities?

Hi Alex! Thank you for inviting me again. I loved the engaging conversation I had with your readers in February, when we spoke about my first workbook Rediscovering The Power of “No”.

Here is a brief reminder of my background. I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia and, being an admittedly brave teenager (or just a teenager :-) immigrated to Israel on my own, arriving there on the second day of the first Gulf War. I got my gas mask and an Israeli passport at the airport–welcome to the country! I worked my way through learning Hebrew while getting my BSc in Computer Science from Technion (the Israeli analog of MIT). I came to the US in 1999 and soon started on Wall Street–first at Merrill Lynch and then at Citigroup. I got my MBA, graduated from Columbia Business School, and worked at Credit Suisse Private banking before starting Personal Confidantency, which I then expanded into Let’s do a reality check!

One thing I am currently working on further developing is my learning and practice of French!

Most of my clients come through word of mouth, but lately I get more inquiries from those who read my books or come across my name on blogs and other social media. I am working on my third workbook in the series, and I promise to reveal the topic to your readers as soon as I get the first draft edited!

Definitely looking forward to that, Irina :-)

In Friends, Enemies and Everyone In Between you open with this quote “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” ~ Mark Twain

How did you come to choose that quote and why is it important to the message of your book?

I feel that this quote emphasizes two main points in my book: take a realistic look at your relationships and, once this is done, see whether you need to make a change. I believe that oftentimes our desire to feel that we are socially accepted and have a lot of friends leads us to many “friends”, which is really akin to building a beautiful doll house, paying the price of a real one for it, and trying to live in it later on. A sure fire way to disappointments!

In the preface of the workbook, you seem to say that labeling someone an “enemy” still gives us a choice in what to do about the relationship but calling someone a “friend” tends to make us stuck. Can you explain your reasoning here?

I feel that it is very important to see reality as close to reality as possible :-)  Seriously though, if you are aware that someone is your enemy, you can take steps to protect yourself from that person: stay away, put up a fight, etc. If you do not allow yourself to see that someone is an enemy, insist on wearing rosy glasses, and see the person as a friend, then you are helpless. This often happens when people think that having enemies makes them a “bad person”. They try to deny the fact that making some enemies as you go through life is as natural as making mistakes while you learn.

Makes perfect sense, Irina.

I must ask where you found those expressive little characters to illustrate your “Friends-Enemies Continuum”?

That’s my little trade secret :-), but for your readers I will revel that istockphoto is the source … I will say no more…Shhhhhhh…. Otherwise I will have to burn the web page this interview is written on!

LOL :-)

In further defining that Continuum you say, “…out of an endless pool of strangers we pick acquaintances, who later might become friends or enemies, or remain acquaintances.” Will later workbooks in the series go more deeply into how we actually pick our acquaintances?

It’s in the plans, probably by the end of 2011. I feel that this is a very important topic. In fact I would appreciate your readers views, questions and other comments on the subject and also, what they feel would be valuable for them to see as part of the Confidantency series.

I certainly don’t want to ask you to tip your hand about what future workbooks in the series will cover, but can you explain this particular sentence? “If you have more friends than acquaintances, you are looking for trouble!”

Well, this is essentially an extension of the proverbial: “The good fellow to everyone is a good friend to no one”.

AhI see

I found your CRAFT “scoring” system for friends/acquaintances very intriguing. How in the world did you come up with that method?

Well, I am not sure you will like the answer :-), but it’s just one of the things that I do. In my practice, one of my goals is to help people to look at their situations from a slightly different angle, to be able to see something they did not see before. Doing it is a combination of art and science. The science is being able to analyze and know exactly what I want share with my readers. The art is to make it memorable, easier to bite into. I am lucky in that respect–I love languages and I love words, but I am also good with numbers, so they like me back and play well together in the sandbox :-)

Actually, Irina, I like that answer very much :-)

One of the most fascinating questions you ask in the workbook is, “…why do you want to have acquaintances at all?” I don’t want to give your answers here (folks should get the workbook) but I’ll ask my readers to give their own answers in the comments, O.K.?

I’d LOVE to hear what your readers have to say. And, as always, I will do my best to respond to any question they might have for me.

Irina, can you tell us what you imagine the other books in your series will be?

Right now I am look at several topics, including expanding the Power of No to specific areas, such as business, relationship and money. I am also thinking about a very common way of treating different aspects of our lives as an “investment” and the consequences of doing so. I mean we often hear “this is an investment in my career” or “I don’t like going to XYZ, but I want to invest in this relationship”.

There are a few other thoughts and plans–what the books will be and when they will be coming out depends on several factors, and one of the most important ones is the feedback from my readers!

So I am asking all of your readers to comment/share about this post and get the books for those who can benefit from them. In my work with Confidantency and Reality Check clients, I work face to face–feedback is immediate and I love it this way. With the books, it is not the case–feedback is delayed, it comes in various shapes and forms: sales numbers, readers’ comments, reviews… And, to be able to continue working, feedback is as paramount as it is when I work with people in person. I’ll tell you a little secret. When the sales number on Amazon does not move for several days, I get all these thoughts in my head: “Should I keep up with the writing and publishing? Maybe it’s best to stick to working with my clients. Maybe the ‘bite size’ workbooks are not needed at the moment”.  But then another review comes in or I get an e-mail saying how my book helped someone in their day, and I call my editor t tell her that, yes, there will be more books coming up!

That is very good to hear, Irina! Thank you for coming back to the blog and giving our readers a peek into your latest book :-)

Thank you, Alexander!
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I want to share two kudos Irina has gotten for her books:

“I suggested to my students to take a look, especially if they find it difficult to say ‘no’. Good work.” — Ajai Gaur, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rutgers Business School

“..you’ve done a great job…Congratulations, and good luck with it.” — Bill Duggan, Columbia Professor and Author of Strategic Intuition, “Best Strategy Book of the Year” (Strategy+Business Journal)
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