Communication is an integral skill in all aspects of life: from the workplace to relationships. Reading books to develop your communication skills is one of the most impactful things I have done for my personal growth. That is why I am going to share with you the best books for communication skills.
“Communication” actually entails many different skills.
It may refer to influence, negotiation, leadership, public speaking, asking for and processing feedback, and much more.
So, I have put together a group of books that will help you conquer the most important aspects of communication.
I love this quote from Bill Gates (a well known avid reader) captured in a CNBC article: the skill people need to develop in order to succeed is “self-confidence as a learner and willingness to keep learning.”
But in order to truly experience the benefits of reading books for communication skills, it is important to understand how to use these books first.
When reading a book to improve communication skills, the most important thing is to take your time.
Do not rush through the book in one day and expect to see results.
Instead, read one chapter at a time and implement the techniques described over the course of several days before moving onto the next chapter.
Usually, I like to spend a solid work week actively implementing a skill described in one chapter of the book. This will allow me to develop some level of proficiency prior to trying to develop another communication technique.
You may know a lot, theoretically, about how to communicate well. But you won’t have the proficiency in order for it to have a lasting impact on your life.
So now that you know how to use these books, let’s get into the list of the best books for communication skills.
Feel free to use this list to skip around and learn about each book:
List of Best Books for Communication Skills
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Never Split the Difference
- Extreme Ownership
- Talking to Strangers
- Never Eat Alone
- Crucial Conversations
- Thanks for the Feedback
- Talk like TED
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. If you do use these links, thank you.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People
I’ve mentioned this book in several of my other posts. It is my go-to recommendation if you are just starting to read for personal development.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic- it was originally published in 1936 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
And for good reason.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the simplicity.
Its simplicity is not just because it is easy to read, but the lessons contained in each chapter are incredibly easy to apply.
I still remember the most common thought I had when I first read this book (in high school) was- “that makes so much sense”.
Sometimes the advice in this book is so simple (e.g. smile) that you think it is silly and won’t really make a difference.
But it really, really does.
I cannot encourage you enough to read this book and APPLY the lessons.
Notable Quotes from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
2. Never Split the Difference
This is one of the most recent books I have read, and it quickly rose up my list of the best books for communication skills.
Never Split the Difference specifically focuses on negotiation, having been written by Chris Voss who served as a lead negotiator for the FBI.
When you hear “negotiation” you probably jump to situations such as salary negotiation and buying a car.
I did too.
The beauty in this book is it makes you realize that negotiations are something that you experience every single day.
Whether you are discussing with your friends where to plan your next girls’ trip, talking with your manager about which project to prioritize or fighting with your child about doing chores…it’s all negotiation.
One of my favorite techniques Chris teaches in the book is mirroring.
Here is an overview on the technique from his YouTube.
When I first read about this technique I was afraid to try it because I thought I would just sound stupid, like I didn’t understand what people were saying.
It is SO effective it is mind-boggling.
People don’t notice it. And they just keep talking!
There are many other strategies Chris lays out that are incredibly effective, and they are layered with interesting stories from his FBI days.
Notable Quotes from Never Split the Difference:
“If you approach a negotiation thinking the other guy thinks like you, you are wrong. That’s not empathy, that’s a projection.”
“Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.”
“Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts. One”
3. Extreme Ownership
Although not specifically focused on how to communicate step by step, Extreme Ownership teaches you all of the most important aspects of leadership.
This is the foundation that you build specific communication skills upon, like those described in How to Win Friends and Influence People and Never Split the Difference.
That is why I had to include this book on the list of best books for communication skills.
Without these lessons, knowing HOW to speak to a person won’t be nearly as impactful.
Extreme Ownership was written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two Navy Seals who served in the Iraq war.
I have to admit, when this book was first described to me I was skeptical.
I’m the farthest thing from a leader in the Navy Seals. I didn’t even have direct reports yet when I first read this book.
But none of that matters. Because this book quickly taught me that leadership is not about having direct reports, a team, or a project.
Jocko and Leif do a fantastic job in describing how each lesson can be applied both in their Navy Seal careers as well as business, from their experience as leadership coaches for their consultancy firm.
This book fundamentally changed how I viewed leaders and leadership.
It put into words so much that I felt about certain leadership styles that I could not verbalize. It made me realize the type of leader and communicator that I would strive to be.
Wherever you are in your career or life, read this book. It’s essential.
Bonus Points: the audiobook on Audible is read by the authors…and man, they definitely SOUND like Navy Seals.
Notable Quotes from Extreme Ownership:
“Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.”
“You can’t make people listen to you. You can’t make them execute. That might be a temporary solution for a simple task. But to implement real change, to drive people to accomplish something truly complex or difficult or dangerous—you can’t make people do those things. You have to lead them.”
4. Talking to Strangers
Talking to Strangers is just that…a book on every aspect of miscommunication and assumptions that occur when you discourse with strangers.
Malcolm Gladwell examines interactions between strangers from real-life examples, outlining where conversations took a wrong turn.
Examples include everything from Adolf Hitler, Amanda Knox, and even Brock Turner.
Malcolm Gladwell analyzes how this tendency can lead to disastrous outcomes.
Talking to Strangers made me examine how my communication with individuals that I know should differ with the approach I take when conversing with strangers.
Your pitch on how to complete a project to your co-workers should not be the same as how you pitch a potential client to buy your service.
But it is also applicable to everyday life, and how you should approach conversations that arise with people you don’t know.
Notable Quotes from Talking with Strangers:
“The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.”
“We have a default to truth: our operating assumption is that the people we are dealing with are honest.”
“To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative—to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception—is worse.”
5. Never Eat Alone
If you have ever wondered how to be one of those individuals that just seems to be able to connect with anyone, this book is for you.
In Never Eat Alone, author Keith Ferrazzi outlines his mindset and specific steps he took to build his network as well as how historical figures such as Winston Churchhill built their networks.
Keith’s strategy is simple: don’t keep score, “ping” people constantly, never eat alone, and become the King of Content.
This book is all about making sure that you increase your visibility among others while being able to provide others what THEY need (in order to get what you need in return).
Never Eat Alone also covers some great topics like handling rejection (which was particularly helpful for me) and getting past gatekeepers.
I am an adamant believer than an introvert can DEFINITELY outwardly portray as an extrovert, it just takes additional practice.
This book will help, no doubt.
Notable Quotes from Never Eat Alone:
“It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”
“Poverty, I realized, wasn’t only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people who could help you make more of yourself.”
“Who you know determines who you are—how you feel, how you act, and what you achieve.”
6. Crucial Conversations
We have all had crucial conversations come up in life.
That one meeting on your calendar that you know has high stakes for your career or project.
The meeting you stare at realizing it is approaching like a bullet train.
Or that conversation you know you have to have with a spouse or close family member that you are afraid to bring up due to the potential repercussions.
Crucial Conversations is a great book. It provides you the skill sets needed to handle high-stakes conversations.
I particularly found the last chapter the most helpful. It is easy to become overwhelmed with anger, frustration, or sadness for me when I am having a crucial conversation.
The authors provide some very actionable feedback on how to manage emotions in order to keep the conversation going. Because if you just give up once emotions start to bubble, it’s unlikely you’ve reached the goal of the conversation.
I also think that in the times we live in, it is very hard to have open dialogue between people that have differing viewpoints.
How I wish everyone would read this book.
Notable Quotes from Crucial Conversations:
“People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool–even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. Now, obviously they don’t agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open.”
“As much as others may need to change, or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire, prod, and shape—with any degree of success—is the person in the mirror.”
“The key to real change lies not in implementing a new process, but in getting people to hold one another accountable to the process.”
7. Thanks for the Feedback
I have mentioned how critical feedback is to career and personal development many times. It is one of my most important tips in order to improve work performance.
Thanks for the Feedback is an excellent book to start your journey in learning how to ask and use feedback to grow.
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, the authors, do an excellent job outlining the importance of feedback and how it can lead to higher job satisfaction, creativity, and improved work performance.
This book is fantastic in that it also outlines how to interpret feedback.
It makes processing feedback a lot more palatable.
Overall, if you are looking for self improvement you need to learn to ask and use feedback. This book is where you start.
Notable Quotes from Thanks for the Feedback:
“Learning about ourselves can be painful—sometimes brutally so—and the feedback is often delivered with a forehead-slapping lack of awareness for what makes people tick. It can feel less like a “gift of learning” and more like a colonoscopy.”
“Creating pull is about mastering the skills required to drive our own learning; it’s about how to recognize and manage our resistance, how to engage in feedback conversations with confidence and curiosity, and even when the feedback seems wrong, how to find insight that might help us grow. It’s also about how to stand up for who we are and how we see the world, and ask for what we need. It’s about how to learn from feedback—yes, even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood.”
“Seeing my own contribution to my circumstances makes me stronger, not weaker. If I contribute to my own problems, there are things I have the power to change.”
8. Talk Like TED
Did I just make you sweat?
Probably not, if you’ve read this book.
Contrary to popular opinion, no one is born a great public speaker. Like pretty much everything in life, it’s about education and practice.
Talk Like TED does a great job of laying out everything from preparation to execution for a great presentation.
The most common mistake I notice with junior presenters is they are always eager to keep speaking during a presentation. Worried that if they pause it will demonstrate that they are unprepared or have stumbled.
But pauses are the tool of the most experienced presenter.
It allows the audience to really digest what the speaker is saying, and this book lays it out so nicely.
So if public speaking is a skill you are still working on mastering (who isn’t), this book is for you.
Notable Quotes from Talk Like TED:
“Practice relentlessly and internalize your content”
“Thinking is hard work. In 18 minutes you can make a powerful argument and attract people’s attention”
“Use gestures sparingly. Now that I’ve told you to use gestures, be careful not to go overboard.”
So those are the best books for communication skills.
If you are seeing career or personal development, you MUST read these books. But remember, take your time and practice.
But remember, it’s all about practice.
Do you have a book on communication skills that you love or have read one of my recommendations? Share your thoughts below!