What Books Would you Recommend to Someone Who Wants to Improve their Effectiveness in Conversation?

Christmas reading

People who work with me often ask me what I'm reading. So I flipped it around and asked members of the Conversation as a Tool tribe on Facebook what books they are reading. Most of them fall into the category of something I would recommend to someone who wants to increase their effectiveness in conversation.

Some of them were surprisingsome fiction and some technical stuff. I bought four books I did not even know existed. Here's the list if you're thinking about getting a jump start on planning for a successful 2017, or are just looking for different things to read during the Christmas holidays.

Here it goes:

Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

Why are we sometimes blind to the minds of others, treating them like objects or animals instead? Why do we talk to our cars, or the stars, as if there is a mind that can hear us? Why do we so routinely believe that others think, feel, and want what we do when, in fact, they do not? And why do we think we understand our spouses, family, and friends so much better than we actually do?

Leading social psychologist Nicholas Epley introduces us to what scientists have learned about our ability to understand the most complicated puzzle on the planet—other people—and the surprising mistakes we so routinely make.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

Dr. John Medina is a molecular biologist. In this book he shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.

Mindset: the new Psychology of Success

Carol Dweck says intelligence is not fixed, it can be changed. It is only our "mindset" that holds us back. If we believe we can't learn, if we believe our abilities are restricted, then they will be. Our limitations are learned and set by ourselves. If we think we can improve ourselves, we will. If we insist that we're unable to achieve, we won't.

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

The book's second edition gives access to more material including a video vault that illustrates each of the authors' techniques being acted out, new case studies, and new tools to help you maneuver effectively through crucial conversations. It's a wise and witty guide to give us the tools we need to step up to life's most difficult and important conversations, say what's on our mind, and achieve positive outcomes. You'll learn how to prepare for high-impact situations with a six-minute mastery technique, make it safe to talk about almost anything, be persuasive, not abrasive, keep listening when others blow up or clam up, and turn crucial conversations into the action and results you want.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in

A proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.

See why we should never bargain over positions in negotiations.

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time

Susan Scott mixes the importance of reflection and courage along with a simple structure. The most powerful for me were the sections on what she calls our "emotional wake". We all leave an emotional wake behind us as we engage in conversations with people. The question is, what kind of wake do we want to leave? How do we want people to feel? This served as a great wake up call for me while reading.

Nonviolent Communication: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

Nonviolent Communication is the integration of 4 things: 1./ Consciousness: a set of principles that support living a life of empathy, care, courage, and authenticity; 2./ Language: understanding how words contribute to connection or distance; 3./ Communication: knowing how to ask for what we want, how to hear others even in disagreement, and how to move toward solutions that work for all; 4./ Means of influence: sharing “power with others” rather than using “power over others.”
Nonviolent Communication serves our desire to do three things: 1.) Increase our ability to live with choice, meaning, and connection; 2.) Connect empathically with self and others to have more satisfying relationships; 3.) Sharing of resources so everyone is able to benefit. It shows us a way of being very honest, without any criticism, insults, or put-downs, and without any intellectual diagnosis implying wrongness.
See also how to survive the loss of a love with a talk about the principles of non violent communication put into practice.

On Dialogue

David Bohm was a physicist by trade, but a man who had the capacity to abstract what he learned from his work into the larger arena of meaningful living. To read Bohm is to learn to think and talk again. His way of being in the world doesn't allow for a person to avoid participating or being changed by that participation. This is a book about how we all think, together, and how we can try to improve that process. The ideas are simple, but challenging.

And for some more surprising part.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson tries to do what most school textbooks never manage to do, explain the context of science in a way that is relevant to the average person. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, he seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us.

He also focuses more on the discoverers themselves, and the process of discovery.
One of the things I like about this book is that Bryson again and again makes sure credit is given where credit it due. For many discoveries, he tells us the "official" story, but also tells us the often untold story of the small-time scientist who got the idea first but, for whatever reason, never got credit. This happens a great deal in science. Bryson appears to be on a quest to set the record straight when he can. The result is not only charming storytelling, it's got a certain justice that just feels good.

 The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy?

What I take from this entertaining tome is that a myriad of factors contribute to happiness: society, culture, community, biophilia, relationships, belonging, trust, openness, creativity, action, flexibility, unpredictability, altruism, a healthy balance of comparative feelings, hedonism, but not too much, and money, but just a bit. And, yes, place–if it allows these things.