The Four Best Books to Help You Improve Your Communication Skills
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We started our discussions about improving workplace communications 3 months into a global pandemic, when the majority of offices were still closed and conversations with colleagues were happening remotely. As businesses began operating in survival mode, the time we might usually have allocated to improving our leadership and management practices was taken up. Casual chats by the water cooler were swapped for virtual hangouts and non-stop Zooming. We were eager to see how senior professionals were adapting to the surge in virtual communications, so we asked them to define their biggest communication challenges. The responses looked something like this:
- Adopting the right amount of authoritative language as I progress into a more senior role
- Avoiding misunderstandings or misinterpretation of tone over text/email/Slack
- Initiating difficult conversations
- Understanding what our customers want to hear us talk about right now
- Getting my voice heard/having my ideas respected
- Fostering healthy work relationships
- Maintaining company culture when we can’t all be in the same physical location
With this list in mind, we began sifting through the bookshelves to find the pages really worth spending your time on. We started with the usual books that are recommended for advice on how to improve your communication skills. Just google ‘books on workplace communication’ to see these. We read everything from How to Win Friends and Influence People to Amazon’s brand guidelines (no, seriously). Discussing our findings with the Book Club as we went, here are the resources that helped us to make the most effective changes:
The best book for those communicating across cultures, countries and time-zones
The Culture Map – Erin Meyer
The snippet: ‘The process begins with recognizing the cultural factors that shape human behavior and methodically analyzing the reasons for that behavior. This, in turn, will allow you to apply clear strategies to improve your effectiveness at solving the most thorny problems caused by cross-cultural misunderstandings – or to avoid them altogether.’
The best podcast for projecting presence on video calls
How to Own the Zoom – Viv Groskop
The snippet: ‘There are lots of books on the great art of speechmaking. They tend to focus on ‘what to say in your speech’. They don’t tell you what to do when nothing will come out of your mouth. And they don’t tell you how to get over the general anxiety about speaking that most people very naturally have. They don’t tell you how to own the room.’
The best book to help you to become a better manager
Leadership is Language – L. David Marquet
The snippet: ‘What we could control was how we talked to each other, the words we used. Starting with me. After all, what is leadership but language? As I changed the way I communicated with the rest of the crew, it affected the way they communicated with me and with each other. Changing the way we communicated changed the culture. Changing the culture transformed our results. Changing our words changed our world.’
The best book to read when planning your external comms strategy
Do Open – David Hieatt
The snippet: ‘I am fascinated by the power of a simple email newsletter to grow a business. I am also fascinated by the fact that most businesses don’t pay much attention to theirs. It’s an afterthought. A poor cousin. ‘Give it to the intern.’ And yet, newsletters are one of the most cost-effective ways of talking to your customer that a business can ever have. But only when they’re done right.’
The best book for understanding that everyone communicates in different ways
Quiet – Susan Cain
The snippet: ‘Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts – in other words, one out of every two or three people you know. If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one. If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts. You have only to raise the subject of this book with your friends and acquaintances to find that the most unlikely people consider themselves introverts.’
Books to skip
As mentioned earlier, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People can be found at the top of many online listicles. We say, it’s better to add actual value to the people around you, be open, transparent and ready to listen than to try to coerce and manipulate them.What are the best books/articles you’ve read on communication and the use of language? Let us know Click To Tweet
The Journey Further Book Club is a community for time-pressured senior marketers and digital professionals. Each quarter, we focus on one distinct theme which affects day-to-day life in modern business. Previous themes have included workplace culture, mental health, and sustainability. From July to September, the 1,200 members of the Book Club have focused their discussion around communication and language in the workplace.
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In her role as Head of Content at Convert, Carmen is dedicated to delivering top-notch content that people can’t help but read through. Connect with Carmen on LinkedIn for any inquiries or requests.