Good communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, from the romantic to the familial to the professional. It helps us connect and feel connected with those around us and is the key to solving any type of conflict. Still, good communication is not always easy to achieve. Sometimes misunderstanding, difficult emotions, or pride can get in the way of communicating well and create more conflict and upset than necessary.
Nobody is born with excellent communication skills. We must learn and develop this skill over time, and we are never really done with learning it. The best communicators are open and willing to improve their communication skills throughout their lives. If you are looking for an opportunity to improve your communication skills and reap the uncountable benefits of improving this crucial life skill, then read on. Below, we have included some of the best books on communication.
The 10 Best Books on Communication
1. Games People Play
To say that Eric Berne’s Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships is an eye-opener. Berne’s seminal work has sold over five million copies since first published in 1964. In Games People Play, Berne uses his theory of transactional analysis to explore how there exist three ego states in each of us: the child, the parent, and the adult.
Our child, explains Berne, is the behaviors and attitudes we learned as children that we still call upon today when we feel threatened or helpless. The parent is part of us that takes on the behaviors and attitudes we saw in our parent or authority figure growing up and applies those to similar threatening or stressful situations. Finally, we have the adult, the fluid part of ourselves that can be mindful in the here and now and approach conflict with presence and groundedness rather than from a place of defensiveness, unlike the child and parent.
Games People Play is one of the most profound communication skills books ever published because it does not only focus on how to improve your communication skills, it also encourages you to look at unhealthy and maladaptive behaviors you bring into your interpersonal relationships and professional relationships and to see them for what they are, defense mechanisms, from which place you can begin to change for the better.
2. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate, and Inspire
“Leadership Presence” by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar is a must-read for anyone who wants to make an impact as a professional. The insight and life-long advice set it apart from other books on communication skills. Halpern and Lubar draw on their extensive experience and performing artists to help the reader join the thousands of others who have boosted their ability to communicate effectively in their companies, all thanks to the authors’ invaluable expertise.
This book is for professionals of all kinds, so this book is for you whether you are a business consultant, a CEO, or simply need to get better at public speaking. Throughout the book, the authors offer real-life examples and invaluable advice on how to build confidence and credibility, how to carry yourself and speak in a way that earns respect, and how to cultivate genuine self-belief. In doing so, you become a source of inspiration for motivation for others, ultimately making you a better and more effective, powerful, and authentic leader.
In ‘Boundaries’, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explore the importance of setting healthy and firm boundaries in our lives. The authors examine how people who are self-assured and affirmative in their boundary setting are often misunderstood as being cold or selfish, but how they are protecting themselves from negativity in a way that helps them be better people. In this book, you will have the opportunity to reflect on your boundaries, or lack thereof. You will also learn some simple but effective skills to help you set boundaries in any area of life, from your romantic relationships to the home to the workplace.
4. Words that Work
‘Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Dr. Frank Luntz is full of wisdom. Luntz possesses a fantastic ability to share his wisdom. It is accessible but profound and will change how you communicate with almost everyone you interact with.
In Words That Work, Luntz successfully describes how we communicate with others and when what we say is not necessarily what others hear. Sometimes, people hear and understand through the lens of their perception, which is not always rooted in reality, nor is it connected to your perception of how things are. Luntz goes on to explain how understanding that communication gap can help us get our message across more effectively.
Throughout the book, Luntz highlights, as the name suggests, words that work when it comes to effective communication, as well as words that are ‘loaded’ or potentially triggering, which act as communication barriers.
5. The Definitive Book of Body Language
Understanding the true power of body language is key if you want to communicate effectively, whether to your partner, your child, or your boss. In Allan and Barbara Pease’s The Definitive Book of Language, you learn exactly that. You learn how a large percentage of communication occurs non-verbally, how you portray yourself to others when you speak, and how to hack your body language to portray a stronger, clearer, and more assertive message.
In essence, our body language reflects our inner emotional state. That emotional state speaks far louder than any words could, and that is why understanding your body language, as well as that of others, can help you portray a more convincing and impactful message. For example, you cannot motivate a team if they can sense a lack of confidence and conviction in your ideas. However, if you apply confidence, posture, eye contact, facial expression, and tone of voice with intention, you are far more likely to make an impact.
Allan and Barbara Pease’s The Definitive Book of Body Language gives you all the knowledge and tools you need to use your body language. Knowing the power of body language will allow you to understand other people and communicate better with them.
6. Five Love Languages
We use language to communicate, but it is not always verbal. You may already know about another important type of language, body language, but the language we communicate goes even further. In his bestselling book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, author Gary Chapman walks us through the five different ways of expressing ourselves within our personal relationships and how understanding each of these methods of communication can significantly improve the quality of relationships.
Chapman’s book has inspired much discussion on the topic, and there are currently thousands of articles and blogs dedicated to further exploring Chapman’s concept. Still, you will learn the most directly from the course. If you are unfamiliar with the five love languages, this book can make a world of difference to your life. Chapman explains the five languages in detail, which include ‘words of affirmation,’ ‘acts of service,’ ‘receiving gifts,’ ‘quality time,’ and ‘physical touch.’
7. On Writing
Developing your written communication skills is just as important as your verbal. In On Writing, renowned novelist Stephen King offers a look into his process and experience as a writer and provides invaluable advice for those seeking to improve their written communication skills. Even if you do not write a lot, there will more than likely be times in your life when you will be called upon to express your thoughts and ideas through the written word. King’s On Writing is an easy-to-read and educational experience that will help you rise to that challenge whenever it presents itself.
8. How to Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegies’ How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic. Originally published in the 1930s, people still reference Carnegie’s work today. In simple, easy-to-follow language, Carnegie outlines how to use simple strategies to create and maintain high-quality relationships. He highlights how to cultivate successful communication through curiosity, openness, and a genuine interest in others and reach the level of relationship quality that will bring us interpersonal happiness.
9.Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most
Sometimes negative emotions can cloud our judgment and perception, making us act and speak in ways that we later feel embarrassed by or regret because we realize we missed an opportunity to grow. When that happens, we tend to wish that we handled the conflict with more confidence and groundedness.
In Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most, a collaborative work by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen, you learn simple but highly effective techniques to help you calmly and confidently approach conversations that you tend to resist. The book highlights the power of open questions, allowing the other person not to answer and confidently asking for clarification.
10. Crucial Conversations
A crucial conversation is “a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.”
In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, coauthors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler explore we can successfully navigate emotionally loaded and high-tense conversations and situations by staying grounded and focusing on that crucial topic or theme in conversation that will help all parties involved come to a resolution.
It is not always easy, but more often than not, there is an emotion-free, diplomatic approach to resolving conflict, but it can be clouded by emotional tension. The authors help you, the reader, look past the emotional cloud, not by ignoring it but by acknowledging and accepting it, thereby giving all parties enough space to pause, breathe, and collaborate on finding solutions.
Do not stop working on getting better at communication. Books are a great way to educate yourself and learn about how to improve your skills, but you will not become a more effective communicator unless you apply what you learn from those books to your lived experience. We improve our communication through trying in life, not just by reading ideas on paper.