Best Books for Effective Communication at Work

5 min readDec 30, 2020
Photo by Nick Fewings

Inspirational speaker Paul J. Meyer once said about the importance of communication:

“Communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success.”

That one sentence speaks volumes when you really delve into it. That hyphenated aside, “the human connection,” speaks to the heart of the matter. It’s all too easy to misinterpret what someone is trying to say, even with the best of intentions. More than 80% of businesses report some sort of miscommunication happening in the workplace.

Communication is a skill. Like any other skill, you can learn to master communication, especially with expert guidance and practice. So, here are a few books that will help you master communication at work, to make sure you and your team are all on the same page!

4 Books to Help You Master Communication at Work

There are a lot of books about improving communication at work out there. That’s partially because there are a lot of different types of work. Suffice it to say, there are sure to be some things that are particular to the tech industry.

The same could be said for customer service, which is renowned for being exceptionally challenging for communication.

To put together a list of communication books that would be useful for everybody, we’ve tried to pick books that are career agnostic. This way, the advice on building communication skills will be applicable to everybody.

1. Simply Said by Jay Sullivan

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in yourself when we’re communication with somebody, especially at work. We’re trying to keep track of the points we need to convey and making sure we’ve checked off all the boxes. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose sight of our audience in the process.

Which means that your business communication has failed.

Simply Said by Jay Sullivan teaches you how to focus on who you’re talking to rather than focusing on yourself. Sullivan shows you how to apply lessons from the Exec-Comm system, which he teaches in workshops and seminars around the world.

2. Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson

Force in communication is a tricky thing. Much of our communication at work is in the hopes of getting someone to do something. That could be to buy something or sign up for a newsletter.

The problem is that if we try and make them do something it could backfire and have the opposite effect.

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion teaches you how to elicit cooperation instead of resistance in your business communication. As in the martial art judo, you’ll learn how to use someone’s momentum in your favor instead of meeting force with force. You’ll be like water, as Bruce Lee put it, in all of your business interactions.

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

In the business world, it’s all too easy and too common to get caught up chasing the latest craze. It seems like we’re constantly keeping an eye on our industry, trying to make sense of the non-stop torrent of new software, techniques, influencers, and innovations in our sector. It’s easy to get caught up in that mindset and go chasing after the newest, shiniest thing.

Sometimes we just need something that’s time-honored and tested. We need techniques that are going to work.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the principal guidebooks for effective communication, whether that be at the office or at home among your friends and family. Carnegie made his career teaching people how to communicate, so much so that there’s a public speaking method named after him.

How to Win Friends and Influence People will show you classic advice like “how to get people to like you” and “how to persuade people to adopt your way of thinking.” Even better, he does this without resorting to manipulation or unhealthy interpersonal practices.

This book has its reputation because it works. It’ll still be a classic book on bettering your communication skills fifty years from now.

4. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Consider these two statements:

“Greg, you make me so mad when you don’t sign the time sheets!” vs. “Greg, I feel frustrated when you forget to sign the time sheets. I know that’s not your intent. What can we do to help fix this?”

The first sentence makes it seem as if the person’s slighting you on purpose. It also shirks any responsibility from the speaker, making it seem as if they have no choice but to get upset. This is likely to make someone defensive and to push back, as the speaker is placing all of the blame on them.

Unsurprisingly, this often leads to arguments.

The second statement owns the speaker’s part in the equation, for starters. It also frames the issue as a neutral problem that needs to be addressed, rather than making it solely one person’s problem.

This subtle difference is the foundation of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s text is another classic for communication at work which has given rise to a whole philosophy. Nonviolent Communication is built around four core principles — empathy, collaboration, empathy, and freedom.

When nonviolent communication is in place and being practice by an entire organization, employees feel free to speak their minds and voice concerns without fear of attack. It creates an open atmosphere of trust and camaraderie instead of anxiety and tension.

These are just a few of the many, many excellent books on communication at work. Even this short stack can completely revolutionize your work culture if you put their insights into practice.

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