Books on effective, impactful communication
July 2, 2017 11:48 PM   Subscribe

I manage a team of amazing folks pretty early in their careers at a touchy-feely (but still fast-paced) startup. One of my reports has asked for coaching on improving her communication skills, particularly with regard to making clear requests and responding to requests from others with a clear commitment (or not), giving direct feedback, and communicating with engineers more effectively. She'd specifically like a couple books for us to read & work through together. Any suggestions? A few snowflakes inside.

I'm well-versed in non-violent communication resources but it isn't quite right for this situation. We're already working through Radical Candor as a company. I've already got a copy of Conscious Business for us to start with (and if you're familiar with it, it's very much in line with the way she & I both think and the way the company aspires to work). What else should I take a look at?
posted by rhiannonstone to Human Relations (5 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Crucial Conversations, Getting to Yes, The Coaching Habit, Ask Outrageously, and 12: The Elements of Great Managing (has a section on saying no; it's the follow up to First Break all the Rules).
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:49 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What Got you Here won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. One of better the business communication books out there which eschews the usual cliches so common in this genre of book.
posted by jacobean at 6:30 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the things I'm becoming more and more aware of in the last few years is how incredibly entrenched implicit bias is, and how, even in the most sensitive environments, the words spoken by women aren't taken the same as they would if they were spoken by men. In that vein, I'd recommend looking for books by women about the topic.

I'm a big fan of Shari Harley. Her book would be a great resource.
posted by advicepig at 6:43 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fierce Conversations. I went to a workshop on this, but haven't quite managed to read the book yet.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:49 AM on July 3, 2017

Suzette Haden Elgin's Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense series has one that's focused on the business world (with the incredibly creative title, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense for Business Success); the whole series is worth pushing at someone trying to learn effective communication skills.

While they focus on verbal attacks and how to diffuse them, they also explain how the defensive skills work, which means taking apart what assumptions are built into the attacks, and how not to escalate by accident, and how to tell the difference between someone trying to be vicious versus someone who just doesn't know how to politely ask a question. And even the books that aren't focused on business, are very aware of communications in settings with a power differential - you can't use the same technique on a verbally abusive doctor that you can with your neighbor.

An example of verbal abusive from a doctor might be, "Patients who really cared about their health wouldn't want to ignore their doctor's orders to lay off the sweets." (The response would be to ignore all the bait about doctor's orders and sweets and even your health, and go for the twist part of the assumption: "Doctor, have you found that most patients can control their wants?")
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:51 PM on July 3, 2017

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