4 communication must-reads to give you the edge

4 communication must-reads to give you the edge

Thursday, 07 March 2019

There’s no substitute for practice, of course, but sometimes a little fresh perspective can give your communication skills a boost. We’ve picked four must-reads that can help you to expand your understanding – and challenge your perceptions – of what good communication means, and give you ideas on how to develop it further in your own life. 


TED Talks: The official guide to public speaking by Chris Anderson


If you’ve ever been inspired by the effortless audience engagement of a ‘TED talk’ speaker, then this is the book for you. Here, TED head Chris Anderson distils the principles of public speaking that have made the platform such a powerhouse of inspiration and shared knowledge since he took it over in the early 2000s. There is, he says, no “formula” for successful public speaking – indeed each TED talk is unique by design, the only prerequisite being that you must give the talk that only you can give, whether that’s a half-hour monologue or a business presentation. Anderson’s relaxed, conversational style of writing is very much in the TED talk mode, and he is endlessly encouraging, certain we can all be good orators - and may indeed find it easier than we think. Is he right? With its powerful insights the book offers a fresh and fluid way to look at contemporary modes of communication – and the chance for you to find that out for yourself.


Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone

How many of us genuinely appreciate feedback? OK, it may offer us tools for change and be an essential part of professional and personal development, but our first instinct is often to minimize it, or avoid it altogether. Author Douglas Stone suggests we should be a bit bolder and lean in to the feedback that surrounds us instead, from the opinions and thoughts of our colleagues and clients, to passing remarks and even criticisms. Importantly, we should get comfortable with a challenge to how we see ourselves. It’s not for the fainthearted, but as he notes: “Feedback-seeking behavior has been linked to higher job satisfaction, greater creativity on the job, faster adaptation in a new organisation or role and lower turnover. And seeking out negative feedback is associated with higher performance ratings.” Blending insights from psychology and neuroscience with practical advice, this thought-provoking book explains why getting feedback is so important even if we don’t particularly want it - and provides a powerful approach to help us get the “best” out of it, from off-hand comment to an annual review.


Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan

As a two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and media coach, Bill McGowan has honed the art of “pitch-perfect” skills through his long career and knows a thing or two about communicating with confidence. This book is a masterclass in how to “say the right thing at the right time and in the right way” – a skill that, once learned, can significantly smooth our personal and professional journeys, according to McGowan, and make all the difference between an outcome we want and one that is thrust upon us. Forget dry business-speak and checklists of abstract coaching tools - his Seven Principles of Persuasion are engaging, quirky and draw heavily on real-life examples. Embrace The Scorsese Principle, which suggests holding your audience's attention with visual images and “directing” the film that plays in their mind or the Pasta-Sauce Principle, which promises you can improve communication with others by boiling down your message to make it as rich as possible. The idea is to enable you to easily craft the right message and hit your mark in any given situation, and McGowan’s strategies, like his book, are memorable and effective – sticking in your mind long after you’ve closed the book.


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

Take to the proverbial mat with this guide to “the martial art of the mind and mouth”. More than just a clever title, this classic handbook on verbal sparring was written by former US professor-turned-street-cop Dr George Thompson and looks at creative conflict from a unique perspective. Part philosophy, part method, Thompson outlines how you can hone your skills of self-control and self-awareness to communicate more confidently and persuasively, defuse confrontation and generate cooperation. As he notes, "When you react, the event controls you. When you respond, you're in control." Essential lessons for the aspiring verbal Judoka include learning to listen and speak more effectively, using the power of empathy to engage people and taking the lead in disputes, allowing you to control and guide the outcome positively. It’s interesting - and sometimes provocative - stuff that provides food for thought. And as a bonus, the latest edition also offers a new final chapter presenting Thompson’s “Five Universal Truths" of human interaction to chew over too.


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