Communication skills are important for every field of work — in fact, they’re a necessity for every aspect of life. Unless you’re able to speak and write well in a variety of situations, it’s impossible to appear professional. For instance, if you have a startup or small business, you need to communicate effectively to position your company as a market leader, express your values, and gain new customers.
One of the best ways to learn anything is to read books. Communication skills books can help you become better at your job, overcome any challenges you have communicating, and improve your interpersonal relationships.
There are a large number of communication skills improvement books out there. To ensure whatever you read is a good investment of your time, we’ve compiled a list of the best books, all written by experts in the field.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People
Probably the most famous effective communication skills book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Published in 1936, it’s now a classic — and for good reason. As well as being based on solid psychological principles, the advice has been tried and tested on countless people. If you know little about effective communication, this is the place to start. It will give you all the fundamentals you need, and you can build your knowledge from there.
2. Never Eat Alone
In Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, author Keith Ferrazzi explores ways to intentionally build relationships. This is important for anyone who feels their network is too small, but it’s also useful for those who are relying too much on their current connections and are neglecting new opportunities. Along with advice, the book has real-life examples that you can apply to your own situation.
3. How to Talk to Anyone
For a huge number of tips you can apply right away, try How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships. Author Leil Lowndes has built her career around teaching professionals how to improve their communication skills. The advice applies to all kinds of situations in life — from the first time you meet someone to communicating by phone. All the techniques have original names to help you remember them.
4. On Becoming Fearless
For many people, the barrier to improving communication is fear. In On Becoming Fearless… in Love, Work, and Life, Ariana Huffington explores methods you can use to stop allowing fear to dictate your life. Her personal anecdotes demonstrate how it’s possible to face fear head on and reach for your dreams.
5. Crucial Conversations
For support on developing more specific communication skills, you may like to read Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High, a collaboration between four authors. You’ll learn how to succeed in some of the most stressful conversations you’ll ever face. Once you’ve finished the book, you’ll know how to be persuasive without upsetting others, keep your cool throughout conversations, and gain the results you want.
6. Difficult Conversations
For a book on a related topic, there’s Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Another co-authored book, it looks at how to initiate challenging conversations to make sure you have them at all. The book also covers how to stay calm and collected throughout such conversations and how to behave rationally, rather than allowing your emotions to take over.
7. Words That Change Minds
Convincing others that your ideas are worth pursuing, your products are worth buying, or your business is worth investing in requires mastering the skill of influencing people. It’s a challenge to learn how to influence without manipulating. Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet will teach you how to break through the “Communication Wall” and help you become a persuasive person.
8. The Fine Art of Small Talk
Although it often feels like something you do just to be polite or to fill the time, small talk actually has a critical role to play. Mastering the art of small talk can help you improve relationships, make a better first impression, and enhance every interaction you have. You’ll learn all this and more in The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression by Debra Fine. The title of the book sums up well exactly what the book covers.
9. The Science of Effective Communication
For more tips on small talk along with advice for all sorts of other social situations, an excellent book to read is The Science of Effective Communication: Improve Your Social Skills and Small Talk, Develop Charisma and Learn How to Talk to Anyone. Author Ian Tuhovsky explains techniques that some of the best communicators in the world use and sets out the steps you should take to harness them for yourself.
10. Bringing Out the Best in People
Communication doesn’t always mean putting yourself at the forefront. Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement is a top source for managers and team leaders in any contemporary workplace. Behavioral psychologist Aubrey C. Daniels describes techniques that are scientifically proven to motivate, empower, and engage employees to create a positive working environment.
11. The Elements of Style
No list of communication books would be complete without at least a couple on written communication. An authority on improving your writing is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Although it was published back in 1918, it remains relevant today — particularly if you’re interested in developing a clean, polished style of written English. Read the entire thing and you will not fail to impress everyone from clients and suppliers to friends and coworkers with your emails, letters, and documents.
12. Everybody Writes
For a more modern take on written communication, read Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley. You’ll find this book particularly beneficial if you ever need to write copy for your webpages, content for your blog, or even social media posts. Even if the content you create tends to be just a few sentences long, the advice in this book will ensure it reflects your brand values and voice.
13. The Definitive Book of Body Language
Communication is not just verbal and written: body language also speaks volumes. It’s easy to forget to pay attention to body language, but this can mean you send the wrong message unintentionally. After reading The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease, you’ll know how to read others’ nonverbal cues and become more aware of your own.
14. Leadership Presence
Another book with a strong focus on body language is Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate, and Inspire by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar. This book is especially useful for managers, as it will prepare you for all types of situations. You’ll learn how to lead with confidence, express yourself, and use your values to inspire others.
15. On Speaking Well
If your goal is to give better speeches, read On Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech with Style, Substance, and Clarity by Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. As well as learning how to craft a text that engages your audience and allows your personality to shine through, you’ll find out how to beat nerves and when you can bend (or even break) the traditional rules of speechwriting.
Another book on public speaking is Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences. The difference is that this book looks at how to deliver presentations (rather than speeches) and focuses on the importance of visual communication. Author Nancy Duarte used these same techniques when creating the famous slideshow for An Inconvenient Truth.
17. Networking for People Who Hate Networking
If you think it’s impossible to be good at networking because you’re an introvert, think again. Devora Zack dismantles the myth that you need to be an extrovert in her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected. The book has innovative advice for those who find that traditional tricks don’t resonate with them.
18. You Just Don’t Understand
Finally, if you feel half the people you meet misunderstand you, read You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Deborah Tannen explores the science of how and why the different genders approach communication in different ways. There are plenty of humorous anecdotes thrown in, which makes the book an enjoyable read.
Reading books is a great start to learn communication skills — but you must also put your skills into practice! In fact, a combination of studying on your own and practice through communication exercises as a team is the ultimate recipe for success. Plus, if you know that any other team members are struggling, share a recommendation of whatever you find to be the most effective communication skills book from this list.