Susan Mangiero has written about ethics, trust and relationship building for over twenty-five years for a variety of national and international publications. She is the author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations For Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears (Happy Day Press, 2017). Like countless business professionals around the world, Susan understands the power of positivity in attracting and retaining clients. Read about her motivation and approach to writing and research about empathy, kindness and trust in this interview with the author.
Why did you write a book about kindness?
I’ve always tried to act with honor in business and personal life but was motivated to do some serious soul-searching a few years ago when personal tragedy struck. I kept coming back to the idea that giving voice to a positive message was something I really wanted to do. Friends and colleagues with whom I spoke kept repeating their desire to read books that tugged at their heartstrings by emphasizing civility and respect. Writing an inspirational gift book about kindness to ourselves and others seemed like a no-brainer, especially at a time of uncertainty for so many people. A year later, I’m the proud author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations For Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears.
What do teddy bears have to do with kindness?
Certainly teddy bears are a metaphor for security, trust and happiness. I’ve heard from lots of adults who still have their childhood bear or have treated themselves to a plush toy or two when they are feeling low. In some cases, an individual may not welcome a hug from another person but instead find comfort by squeezing a stuffed animal. Notably, there is extensive research that documents the physical and emotional benefits of holding a teddy bear close prior to surgery or coping with a tragedy or everyday anxiety. One survey reveals that business travelers pack their teddies with their pajamas and work attire. Then too there is the universality of teddy bears in literature, history and pop culture. Few other icons resonate so fully with millions of people around the globe.
Will you write more about kindness and trust?
Absolutely. In early 2016, I set up a company called I Paint With Words, LLC for the purpose of publishing books, articles and speeches that emphasize the power of positivity in strengthening relationships. The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations For Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears will soon be followed with a suite of complementary products that bear the imprint name of Happy Day Press. As someone who has worked in both industry and academia for several decades, this storytelling initiative builds on my strategy consulting, research and business intelligence work. Consumers make emotional decisions all the time about what to buy and whom to buy from. Companies are smart to explore how they can grow their bottom line by demonstrating empathy and trustworthiness.
What do you read?
I regularly read at least one newspaper each day. I enjoy classic poetry by writers such as John Donne. Right now, I spend hours reading studies about the role of empathy and trust as they relate to forging business relationships and, by extension, developing sales. When I have time to relax, my go-to book is a cozy mystery by Agatha Christie or a modern equivalent.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
So far, that is not a problem for me. Throughout the day, I make notes on index cards I keep in my car and purse. I may hear a word or phrase that I want to jot down. Sometimes an idea comes to me and I add it to my file of potential fiction plots and business article ideas. As a regular at the local yoga studio, I now keep a pen and small pad of paper next to my mat. Inspiration seems to strike when I am downward dogging or otherwise concentrating on a challenging pose.
What advice would you give future writers?
The answer depends in part on the type of writing. For example, a business book for a general managerial audience needs to be less technical and chockablock with compelling stories about successes and lessons learned. Writing fiction, by its nature, allows the author latitude to describe imaginary situations. However, both types of authors need to be mindful of structure, technique and the needs of their respective audiences. I don’t know anyone who sits down at the computer and produces something on a whim. Words are edited, messages are clarified and drama is used to grab the attention of their readers. Enrolling in writing workshops, joining author critique groups and reading about style and presentation are good steps to take.