Resources for improving communication skills
January 9, 2013 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Can anybody recommend a book that will teach me how to be assertive without sounding bitchy? Or, maybe it's a self-esteem issue that I'm dealing with. I'd like to communicate better.

It's taken me a long time to think of how to even frame this question, or what my issue is, really. I've decided I have a deficit in my social skills, in that I don't know how I come across to others, and I lack tact. I'd love some recommended reading to heighten my awareness and give me tools for effective communication.

I'm 32/f and I get along quite well with people, except I think I sometimes suffer for it.

Other resources and anecdata beyond book recos also welcome and appreciated.
posted by little_dog_laughing to Human Relations (11 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How to Win Friends and Influence People is the gold standard. I'm pretty skeptical and cynical but I feel like it was the manual I never got issued and my career and life would've been so much smoother had I read it before.

The 48 Laws Of Power is going to make you feel like a bad person, however, if you frequently have problems with bosses and superiors, it will be eye-opening for how to deal with them.

Emotional Intelligence, I just started, but seems pretty good if you need help dealing with emotional people.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also How to Make Friends in 90 seconds or Less is wonderful.
posted by Issithe at 9:37 PM on January 9, 2013

I was also going to recommend Dale Carnegie (the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People) or some other type of sales training because sales, and salesmanship, is all about communication, tact, nuances, being tuned into what other people are saying and their body language, etc. I think you'll benefit much more from taking a Dale Carnegie or other sales training course (even though you are likely not even in a sales profession), and practicing what is taught, than from reading a book. And think about many things we do in our daily life are about "selling" our point of view (presenting, persuading, influencing, arguing, etc.) so sales training can really help just about anybody no matter what they do.
posted by Dansaman at 10:41 PM on January 9, 2013

Try to convince your employer to pay for the Carnegie class. I did one of these a few years ago at the strong suggestion of an employer. The course is pretty good--very practical. But it is also quite expensive, so if you do decide to do it, try to get someone else to pay!
posted by chiefthe at 1:04 AM on January 10, 2013

Best answer: I wonder about your use of the word "bitchy." If you haven't already, perhaps read a bit about how women vs men are perceived when they communicate - I don't have a specific suggestion but I am sure others will. I just wonder if the problem is entirely yours or partially our society.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:50 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office is also a classic.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:36 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for your great answers! I have read How To Win Friends... though I could probably benefit from reading it again. Emotional Intelligence, 48 Laws... How To Make Friends... Nice Girls Don't... are books that I will check out.

It is, however, more in my personal life than in my professional life where I have trouble speaking up. It's almost like I'm afraid to be a bad influence on people (if that makes sense), even though I know intellectually that my opinions aren't that important, and adult people are not that fragile.

SyraCarol, yes. I use the word "bitchy" because I do think we've been socialized to be put off by assertive women, where men do well to just say what's on their mind and then roll on. But, there are a small percentage of exceptional women who seem to have been born with the gift (?) of being very comfortable in their skin, possessed of a degree of levity, and being likable to boot, who speak their minds and no one gets/stays offended.

I'm not afraid of being perceived of bitchy when I'm standing up for something. I just don't know how to not make everything A Stand That I Am Taking. (I like cats, but if I didn't like cats I don't know how I could ever convey that information without looking like Ms. Bitchypants and destroying friendships. Bit of hyperbole, but you get the idea, and yes, my real life issues are That Petty. I might as well take a vow of silence...)
posted by little_dog_laughing at 6:31 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Also, I almost used the term "oil and water" in my original question.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:01 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Lastly, I'm now thinking that "Authentic Relationships" might be a good lead for me to follow.

Thank you all!
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:05 AM on January 10, 2013

You mentioned resources beyond books; I've taken some communication-type classes from the American Management Association that translated into my 'real' life. My firm paid for the classes.
posted by troywestfield at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2013

That's Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen and The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin and literally changed my life. Completely changed not only how I dealt with people at work, but also very much improved my job interviewing success. Just being aware of the differences between what I said and what I communicated was huge. Probably any of the books by either one of them would be equally good, but those were the ones I read.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:56 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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