It’s difficult to learn communication skills only from a book.
But it’s also difficult to learn the practice only, without any theory.
The best way, which is also the way that worked best for me, is to mix quality theory with practice.
For the theory part, these are the 9 best communication skills books you can find.
Just let me be precise here.
Most lists of communication skills books that I have seen online actually include books on general social skills.
But I like being precise.
So I have a different list of social skills books while this list is strictly focused on verbal communication.
So without further ado, here’s the list:
11. Soulmate Sequence
Richard La Ruina is a skilled analyst of social dynamics, and Soulmate Sequence contains some truly high-quality examples of smooth and flowing conversation.
Quote: “The key to all success in all social interactions, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, comes back to making other human beings feel good”
10. Speaking Pro
Communication isn’t just 1:1 communication.
As a matter of fact, if you want to kick it up to the next level, you must learn how to communicate to several people at a time, either while delivering a speech, or a presentation, or while talking to a room of people at your daily meetings.
This is also a skill that will help you greatly advance your career.
Quote: “Connect with anyone. Never assume that anyone in the room doesn’t have influence”
9. Crucial Conversations
Crucial Conversations is one of the most popular titles in our best communication skills books list.
Among the biggest takeaways:
- Make it Safe: people hold back out of fear. That’s why you must create an environment where people feel safe to speak and cared for;
- Fill the Pool: I loved the image of “the pool”, or the shared space of meaning between speakers. The more you fill it, the more successful the conversation will be.
Do get ready for high-stakes conversation, because paradoxically when it matters the most is also when we’re most likely to perform the poorest.
Quote: “When it matters the most it’s when people are most likely to avoid or get emotionally. Both major screw up ”
8. Verbal Judo
Thompson says that as long as you can manage to never take things personally, you’ll hardly need any verbal judo.
But even if you can manage that, I still think Verbal Judo will help you become a better communicator.
Here’s something I loved: start with the negative. When you give feedback, start with the negative first, then end on a positive note.
With informal prose and plenty of examples, including straight from the streets (Thompson is a police trainer), Verbal Judo is worth its communication skills weight in gold.
Quote: “Say what you want. As long as you do as I say ”
7. Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness
Unluckily I couldn’t find statistics on how many people are passive-aggressive.
And that’s probably because every one of us, at times, resorts to passive-aggressive communication.
This is exactly the reason why Andrea Brandt makes it into the top 5 of our best communication skills books: you will communicate with passive-aggressive people. And Brandt teaches you exactly how to recognize and how to deal with it.
It’s a great book with top advice and a choke-full of super helpful examples.
A real eye-opener in the communication genre.
Quote: “If you’re not assertive and if you’re bottling up anger, then you’re passive aggressive”
6. How to Win Friends and Influence People
Could anyone compile a reading list of best communication skills books without Dale Carnegie in it?
I didn’t think so either.
How to Win Friends might not be for you if you need more assertiveness since it’s all about finessing and making others feel good.
But I can hardly think of anyone who cannot stand to gain by applying the timeless principles of this huge classic.
Quote: “To be interesting, be interested “
5. Difficult Conversations
Difficult Conversations has been the very first communication skills book I’ve read.
And every page I turned I only grew more and more excited realizing I had a wisdom-bomb in my hands.
Difficult Conversations dissects conversations at the three most important levels: what happened, feeling, and identity.
Difficult conversations are difficult because they are heavy emotions and, sometimes, can reach us at the core of who we are (identity, also read antifragile ego).
Quote: “Humans feel binary when conversations touch identities: either great & lovable or terrible & unworthy “
4. The Power of a Positive No
And in both realms, William Ury does a wonderful job.
It’s definitely one of my favorite communication skills books.
Quote: “Even in the face of the other’s provocations, keep showing respect, remembering that you give respect not because of who they are but rather because of who you are“
3. People Skills
It’s called “People Skills”, but it’s all about communication. To be precise, assertive communication.
It was previously in the first spot on this “best communication skills book” because most people need some help in striking that balance between the passive communication style and aggression.
And People Skills is one of the best I have read when it comes to assertive communication.
However, it lacks both the strategic need for social effectiveness because assertive communication is NOT always the best approach, and it lacks the darker side -hence “The Gervais Principle” and “Power University” leapfrogged it-.
Still, a great book on communication skills, and also includes good psychology and real-life examples.
Quote: “Listening and assertion are the yin and yang of communication“
2. The Gervais Principle
By Venkatesh Rao
It’s crazy how few resources truly cover either the power element or the darker side of human nature -let alone both of them-.
As if humans’ darker side didn’t even exist, as if one could simply be honest, straight, and direct and everything would go well.
Obviously, it doesn’t work like that.
And communication skills books are no exceptions: many of them write with the “ideal human being” in mind, who is not going to play games, who is not going to take offense and become a frenemy, and who is not going to use your honesty against you.
That makes a good chunk of communication skills books part of what we call here “naive self-help“.
That’s what Rao correctly says in “The Gervais Principle”: if you try to learn the techniques and words of “proper” communication without acquiring the power skills that allow you to understand the dynamics, deliver the words properly, and handle infinite possible directions the communication take, you’ll only sound like a bigger fool.
So for proper communication, you NEED power awareness.
The only downside of The Gervais Principle is that it only addresses the power and “darker“ component of human socialization.
But since almost no other resource does that, even the single chapter in this wonderful book that addresses communication is enough to put it near the top of this list.
Quote: “In Powertalk, you play with money (the currency is most often reality-information). In the other languages you are playing with no stakes.“
1. Power University
By Lucio Buffalmano & TPM Community
Power University is “communication for the real world”.
It teaches you how to win and establish win-win, to set up and maintain positive, value-adding, and fulfilling relationships with anyone -colleagues, spouses, friends relatives, etc.-.
And it does so with examples and case studies so you can watch and hear how to deliver the lines.
The strategies and techniques for good communication, frame control, and persuasion are also based on the reality that people may have divergent interests, may dislike you, maybe enemies or frenemies -or dangerously become so-, or maybe inveterate manipulators.
If you’re starting out, you can’t go wrong with any of these verbal communication skills books.
Finish reading a couple of these, apply the teachings, and watch your communication skills go to the next level.
Then, once you get the basics down, and maybe even start realizing the limitations of the more popular but naive approaches, you can step up to a TPM course.
One only thing left to do: subscribe and get updated when a new entry will crack into the must-read list.