Best Books to Improve Communication Skills

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Looking for the best books to improve communication skills?

2016 LinkedIn survey conducted in the U.S. revealed that communication is the most sought-after soft skill among candidates. A recent Salesforce research showed that 86% of employees believe that poor communication is the root cause of workplace problems. And do we even need statistics anymore to understand how much effective communication can improve our personal relationships?

With this in mind, if you want to develop your communication skills, you need to learn from the best. To help you identify them, we reviewed for you all kinds of sources: Sociology and Management courses syllabi, specialized journals, and Goodread’s top suggestions. Ultimately, we selected what appears to be, almost unanimously, a list of the 10 best books on the topic.

Each one of these communication books is specialized in one or more of the following topics:

  • Persuasion, Negotiation, Influencing
  • Networking, Social Skills, Emotional Intelligence
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Public speaking, presentation Skills
  • Body Language
  • People Management, Leadership
  • Nonviolent communication

To help you choose the best communication book for you, we highlighted the associated category under each title.

Without further ado, let’s get started with the list.

 

10 Best Books to Improve Communication Skills

1. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

Focus: Persuasion, Negotiation, Influencing; Conflict Resolution.

The book’s premise is straightforward: Each of us, either in the workplace or within our personal relationships, faces conversations in which there is a  substantial significance attached to the outcome. More specifically, we can define a Crucial Conversation as a discussion where “stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong”. Examples include discussions around: asking your manager for a raise, evaluating a colleague’s work, or asking relatives to stop being intrusive. In all these situations we often behave less rationally, generally trending towards one of two unproductive attitudes: Violence or Silence.

The entire purpose of this book is therefore to give you practical methods to bring the Crucial Conversation to a healthy middle ground, a place where thoughts can be presented openly, and the participants can move towards a common resolution.

In a few words, you’ll learn how to:

  • Prepare for crucial conversations with a 6-minute control technique
  • Make it safe to discuss almost any topic
  • Be convincing without being harsh
  • Keep listening when the other person is edging toward Violence mode
  • Turn a conversation into the actual results you want
Books to improve communication skills

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Focus: Networking; Social Skills; Emotional Intelligence; Persuasion; Negotiation; Influencing

Since its new revision came out, Carnegie’s book has made it to pretty much every list of the best books to improve communication skills.

Despite the Machiavellian title, this book is not about manipulating people. We wouldn’t describe it as a book about true friendship either, but more as a guideline to the formation of calculated, beneficial relationships. Carnegie’s philosophy of human interaction is quite simple: the most successful people are often those that are most likable in a broader sense. The most likable people are those who understand human nature and use it to their advantage. And once you fully understand just how fundamentally prideful and sensitive human egos are, following a set of clear-cut principles can easily turn you into a very pleasant presence.

Contrary to some interpretations, I don’t think Carnegie is necessarily teaching us to be purely cynical regarding business relationships. He’s just teaching us to be smart about it. And ultimately, the book does offer continuous reminders to be genuinely interested in other people and to be liberal with compliments only when and if they are heartfelt.

Paraphrasing the book’s chapters, you’ll learn how to:

  • Handle people in a variety of situations
  • Make people like you more
  • Win people to your way of thinking
  • Be a leader, and shape people’s opinions without arousing resentment
Books communication skills

3. The Science of Effective Communication by Ian Tuhovsky

Focus: Networking; Social Skills; Emotional Intelligence;

Using his BA degree in Sociology and his extended experience as an HR consultant, author Ian Tuhovsky wrote what is perhaps the most uncomplicated, easy-to-read communication skill book on this list. People have also described this book as a niche, modern-day, step-by-step version of Dale Carnegie’s bestseller, and I do agree that these volumes complement each other nicely.

You may find yourself constantly referring to this book as guidance before important occasions, as each chapter concisely addresses aspects of verbal and nonverbal communication with real-world application suggestions.

This includes, among many, many others, suggestions on how to:

  • speak clearly, with the most pleasant intonation and enunciation
  • prepare for a job interview
  • approach someone you find attractive
  • approach someone who is hurting
  • build a relationship with a client using the best small talk approaches (FORD strategy)

There is something in this book for everyone, and while reading you can’t help but recognize your own mistakes in communication and reflect on the presented alternative responses.

Books to improve communication skills

4. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Focus: Persuasion; Negotiation; Influencing

Life is hectic. We’re constantly faced with information we cannot fully grasp and choices we can hardly analyze. To survive, our brains are constantly looking for mental shortcuts – “if everybody wants this, then it must be good”, or “if that celebrity has this, then it must be good”. And while these shortcuts do serve us most of the time, if you know how they work, you can take advantage of them.

This book is, in a nutshell, about how certain people use our cognitive shortcuts to get us to say “YES”.

To prove his point, Cialdini covers pretty much all the most recent and popular studies conducted on the human psyche, turning the first part of this book into a full-on textbook. He then proceeds to explain what he calls “the six weapons of influence”, or, in other words, the six methods for getting people to do what you want: Reciprocation, Commitment, Social proof, Friendship/liking, Authority, and Scarcity.

We’d recommend this book to anyone in advocacy (from law to politics to sales), or to anyone who’d like to understand:

  • the sneaky levers that are used to persuade and influence people
  • how to use them to become a skilled persuader
  • how to defend yourself against them
Persuasion books

5. The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease and Allan Pease 

Focus: Body Language

Nonverbal cues constitute an integral part of communication, and yet they get often overlooked. Thankfully, Allan and Barbara Pease put into use their extensive experience in medicine, biology, and psychology to give us what is undeniably the definitive book of body language.

In a few words, this book illustrates how a person’s emotions influence his or her body gestures. Consequently, it also explains how we can better understand or lead conversations by considering non-verbal communication. An in-depth overview of all different kinds of body language gestures is presented and matched with pictures. This includes handshaking, gestures of legs, sitting arrangement at tables, and facial expressions. For each gesture a detailed interpretation is presented, to help you detect whether the person you’re speaking to is feeling either defensive or aggressive, insecure or confident; if he or she agrees or disagrees with you; eventually, even if they’re interested in you.

Reading this book, you’ll learn how to:

  • read other people’s body language to understand how they feel
  • understand the way you come across others on a daily basis, either in your private life or workplace
  • get an edge in an interview or in a meeting by looking more confident
  • communicate more effectively
Body Language Books Definitive

6. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston

Networking; Social Skills; Emotional Intelligence

A former UCLA professor of psychiatry and negotiation trainer, Dr. Mark Goulston is one of the world’s most recognized leaders in empathic listening. But don’t be put off by his book’s title – this covers way more than empathic listening.

Goulston’s book is a quick but valuable read to pick up some new techniques for more effective conversations with others, with a particular focus on the hard ones. There’s a guideline for taking people from ‘resistant to doing’ to ‘compelled to act’ via what the author calls the “Persuasion Cycle model”. There are tips for getting through angry, uncooperative, or hurtful people, as well as suggestions for dealing with toxic people, such as bullies and narcissists. There are powerful expressions and questions that you can pull straight from the book and experiment with in real life.

Goulston also describes some of the psychological technicalities behind the techniques he presents, but still keeps the book concise and light.

Paraphrasing some of the book’s chapters, by reading this you’ll learn:

  • How effective listening and communication work
  • Which are the most powerful questions you can ask
  • Ways to get through anyone
  • How to climb the Corporate ladder
Books to improve communication skills

7. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss

Persuasion; Negotiation; Influencing

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator. If you need to learn how to negotiate, he’s your guy.

Each chapter in this book teaches a lesson based on real-life cases from Voss’ experience with hostage negotiations. The premise is that the same methods that are used in life-threatening negotiations can be applied, with minor alterations, to everyday conflicts. The highlights of Voss’s techniques include: using the concept of Mirroring to get people to talk; Labeling what the other person is feeling; asking Calibrated Questions to recognize underlying motives, and accepting (in fact, striving for) being initially told “no”.

The interesting thing about this book is that it reads almost like a page-turner thriller, yet is so dense with instrumental lessons that you’ll find yourself avidly taking notes.

Order yourself a copy if you want to learn how to:

  • recognize your counterpart’s primary personality trait
  • tune into emotional cues
  • embrace conflict.
  • negotiate in every context of your personal and professional life
Communication Negotiation Books

8. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Nonviolent communication

No proper list of the best books to improve communication skills could be considered complete without mentioning Nonviolent Communication. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach to communication developed in the early 1970s by clinical psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, with the intent to increase empathy and improve quality of life.

The approach portrayed in the book questions violence and judgment-based communication tactics that are nowadays profoundly ingrained in our minds. Upon formulating arguments against the effectiveness of coercion in day-to-day communication, Rosenberg proposes an alternative framework consisting of 4 simple steps: observing what’s happening; understanding what feelings are prompted inside you because of that; recognizing which needs lay below those feelings; finally, openly stating a concrete request to your counterpart.

The core messages – empathetic listening and conscious use of language – could be considered intuitive, almost obvious, but the practical instructions for how to implement the framework turn the book into something extremely valuable. There are many good suggestions in this book — some easy to put into practice on the spot, and some requiring more gradual adjustments and continued dedication. All of them have the potential to turn you into a better person.

Nonviolent Communication Books

9. Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey C. Daniels

People Management; Leadership

Dr. Daniels’s bestseller makes for a great introduction to Performance Management and Organizational Behavior Management. Taking a scientific and analytical approach to Behavioral science, the book is filled with real-life examples of its usage to enhance performance in the workplace. We firmly believe this to be a must-read for anyone with managerial responsibilities in their organization, whatever its size and nature, as well as for those working as team leaders and/or involved in collaborative projects.

As a leader, you’re responsible for providing those around you with the tools to succeed. This includes mastering open communication, being observant, engaging with the team, and, most importantly, constantly providing the right type of feedback. In this regard, Dr. Daniel’s philosophy is simple: if you need to get more of a certain behavior, then you must reward it with positive feedback. Negative feedback or no feedback at all won’t generate any visible results. After explaining all forms of reinforcement and providing many practical examples of each one of them, the book shifts its focus also on effective managerial models.

This is an excellent communication book for every manager that wants to:

  • Create an effective reward systems
  • Motivate employees for greater performance
  • Boost innovation
  • Increase workplace knowledge transfer

Communication Books Emotional Intelligence

10. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo

Public speaking; Presentation Skills

We’re finishing off our list of the best books to improve communication skills with a volume that is focused on the scariest challenge for many people out there: Public Speaking.

Sooner or later we all become speakers. No matter what career path you are on, we all tell stories. And learning how to effectively tell a story to an audience is a valuable, if not essential type of communication skill for anyone to have.

As the name suggests, Talk Like TED is strongly based on the best talks from TED. Gallo spent months analyzing more than 500 TED presentations and summarized his discoveries into nine common concepts. He also interviewed the speakers to understand and report precisely how those talks came to be: how first drafts were created, how speeches were rehearsed, and how the audience reacted. To reinforce every concept even more, the author cites a large amount of research on neuroscience and human behavior. Every suggested technique is therefore tied to related statistics and studies, giving even more authority to the content.

In a few words, by reading “Talk Like TED” you’ll learn how to:

  • Create memorable presentations
  • Speak confidently in front of a crowd
Public speaking books communication

What are, in your opinion, the best books to improve communication skills?

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Tags: books to improve communication skills; communication books; self-help;