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How to Talk to People

Dreading conversation over the upcoming holidays?

Here are some books that can help you manage conflict and promote conversation over the (virtual or socially distanced) dinner table.

In this list: managing conflict, talking about hot topics, conversation

 

Managing Conflict

The Dance of Connection

The Dance of Connection
How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate

Harriet Lerner

In her most affirming and life-changing book yet, Dr. Harriet Lerner teaches us how to restore love and connection with the people who matter the most. In The Dance of Connection we learn what to say (and not say) when:

  • We need an apology, and the person who has harmed us won’t apologize or be accountable.
  • We don’t know how to take a conversation to the next level when we feel desperate.
  • We feel worn down by the other person’s criticism, negativity, or irresponsible behavior.
  • We have been rejected or cut off, and the other person won’t show up for the conversation.
  • We are struggling with staying or leaving, and we don’t know our “bottom line.”
  • We are convinced that we’ve tried everything—and nothing changes.

Filled with compelling personal stories and case examples, Lerner outlines bold new “voice lessons” that show us how to speak with honor and personal integrity, even when the other person behaves badly.

Empowered Boundaries

Empowered Boundaries
Speaking Truth, Setting Boundaries, and Inspiring Social Change

Cristien Storm

An invaluable resource on boundary-setting practices for anyone looking to challenge our default social conditioning and create empowered relationships and communities.

Explaining power and privilege and the links between individual safety and community safety, Cristien Storm shows how to set emotional boundaries that build a better world. Storm has developed boundary setting curricula grounded in resiliency and trauma-informed theories, and the book provides skills and exercises, such as Naming the Behavior, the Broken Record, Freeze Framing, the Reflective Loop, and Trusting Intuition, as well as examples from workshop participants. Building vibrant social movements means understanding the links between individual safety and community safety. Boundary setting can be used, not just as a means for personal safety, but as form of solidarity, resistance, and inspiration for the future we keep fighting for.

Impossible to Please

Impossible to Please
How to Deal with Perfectionist Coworkers, Controlling Spouses, And Other Incredibly Critical People

Neil J. Lavender, Alan Cavaiola

Everyone knows someone who is impossible to please, critical, judgmental, picky, and stubbornly closed-minded. These are symptoms of a disorder called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), but it’s common for people to have subclinical levels of some or all of these qualities. Most of the time, it’s best to avoid the difficult to please person, but what happens when he or she is a close family member, coworker, or even a spouse? It’s still possible to maintain a positive relationship with the right tools. Impossible to Please, written by the authors of Toxic Coworkers, is a manual for dealing with these difficult people without sitting through stressful arguments, vicious insults and attacks, and passive-aggressive behavior. It empowers readers to take charge of the relationship and regain their dignity and confidence in interactions with these individuals.

Never Get Angry Again

Never Get Angry Again
The Foolproof Way to Stay Calm and In Control in Any Conversation or Situation

David J. Lieberman, PhD

A holistic look at the underlying emotional, physical, and spiritual causes of anger cites the shortcomings of traditional anger-management techniques while explaining how to shift one’s perspective to maintain a state of calm.

Say This, Not That

Say This, Not That
A Foolproof Guide to Effective Interpersonal Communication

Carl Alasko

This simple, straightforward guide to effective communication is for anyone who has ever wanted to “eat their words.” Do you ever feel that your words produce the exact opposite effect of what you were hoping for-escalating tensions rather than solving problems? Author of Emotional Bullshit Carl Alasko has found that with the right guidance, anyone can learn effective communication skills. In Say This, Not That, Alasko presents readers with simple instructions for what to say. and what not to say. Accompanying each pair of statements is a brief discussion of what makes one so negative and destructive, and the other inviting of the kind of discussion needed. This book is the ultimate resource for anyone who longs to consistently say the right thing at the right time.

Talking to Crazy

Talking to Crazy
How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life

Mark Goulston

Difficult people can make life hard, but a select few can make it hell. The boss with nonsensical demands. The spouse who explodes at nothing. The overly emotional coworker, hostile neighbor, or friend who frequently bursts into tears. Marriages, families, friendships, careers, businesses—crazy people drag them all down with their manipulation, volatility, and inability to see the world rationally. You can’t win by just ignoring the craziness or trying to reason with it. But you can stop it cold.

Top-ranked psychiatrist and communication expert Mark Goulston shows you exactly how to do that in this life-changing book for everyone trapped in personal or workplace relationships that feel confusing, stressful, or downright hopeless. Goulston unlocks the mysteries of the irrational mind, and explains how faulty thinking patterns develop. His keen insights are matched by a set of counterintuitive strategies proven to defuse crazy behavior, along with scripts, examples, and exercises that teach you how to use them.

We Need to Talk

We Need to Talk
How to Have Conversations That Matter

Celeste Headlee

Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals.

And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.

 

Talking About Hot Topics

Beyond Your Bubble

Beyond Your Bubble
How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work

Tania Israel

This practical, politically neutral book offers concrete skills for holding meaningful conversations that cut across today’s intense political divide, showing readers how to connect to the people in their lives.

Political polarization is at an all-time high, and the consequences for our personal relationships are significant. Many people have friends and family members with whom they feel they can no longer communicate because of their extreme political views. In this book, psychologist Tania Israel presents her program for helping people have meaningful, constructive conversations with those they disagree with politically. Chapters show readers how to develop and use the scientifically-proven skills that are the foundation of constructive conversation, including strategies for effective listening, managing emotions, and understanding someone else’s perspective, as well as finding common ground, avoiding self-righteousness, and telling your own story. Throughout, conversation prompts, practical exercises, case examples, and self-quizzes help readers visualize and practice starting, sustaining, and ending challenging conversations.

I Love You but I Hate Your Politics

I Love You but I Hate Your Politics
How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World

Jeanne Safer, PhD

From friends to relatives to lovers, no relationship is immune to this crisis. I Love You, but I Hate Your Politics draws from interviews with every type of politically mixed couple, as well as Dr. Safer’s own experiences as a die-hard liberal happily married to a stalwart conservative. The result is a practical guide to maintaining respect and intimacy in our increasingly divided world.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening)

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening)
A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations

Sarah Stewart Holland, Beth Silvers

Two friends on opposite sides of the aisle provide a practical guide to grace-filled political conversation while challenging readers to put relationship before policy and understanding before argument.

More than ever, politics seems driven by conflict and anger. People sitting together in pews every Sunday have started to feel like strangers, loved ones at the dinner table like enemies. Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers say there is a better way. As working moms on opposite ends of the political spectrum and hosts of a fast-growing politics podcast, Holland and Silvers have learned how to practice engaging conversation while disagreeing. In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), they share principles on how to give grace and be vulnerable when discussing issues that affect families, churches, the country, and the world. They provide practical tools to move past frustration and into productive dialogue, emphasizing that faith should inform the way people engage more than it does the outcome of that engagement. This urgently needed new book reveals how to talk about politics in a way that inspires rather than angers and that pays spiritual dividends far past election day.

Modern Loss

Modern Loss
Candid Conversation About Grief

Rebecca Soffer, Gabrielle Birkner

Inspired by the website that the New York Times hailed as “redefining mourning,” this book is a fresh and irreverent examination into navigating grief and resilience in the age of social media, offering comfort and community for coping with the mess of loss through candid original essays from a variety of voices, accompanied by gorgeous two-color illustrations and wry infographics.

So You Want To Talk About Race

So You Want To Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

A current, constructive, and actionable exploration of today’s racial landscape, offering straightforward clarity that readers of all races need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide. In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word.

Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans. Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity.

When the World Feels Like A Scary Place

When the World Feels Like A Scary Place
Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents & Worried Kids

Abigail Gewirtz

In our complicated world, big issues make both parents and children anxious. So how should parents talk to their kids about the things that make both parent and child on edge—from family financial issues to school shootings to global warming? Here, an expert child psychologist offers parents scripts for conversations that will help us raise kids who are informed, engaged, and confident.

 

Conversation

The Art of Conversation

The Art of Conversation
A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure

Catherine Blyth

A wide-ranging, exhortatory look at the pleasures of great conversation, including strategies for how to bring it about, from the witty pen of an Englishwoman wise in its ways.

The Art of Mingling

The Art of Mingling
Fun and Proven Techniques for Mastering Any Room

Jeanne Martinet

Does the idea of going to a large party make your mouth go dry? Are you more comfortable on Facebook than face-to-face? You’re not alone: Ninety percent of the world suffers from minglephobia. Jeanne Martinet has developed a cure, a sure-fire system for overcoming fears and having a great time at any type of business or social gathering.

How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends

How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends

Don Gabor

You don’t have to be timid, shy, and unsure of yourself anymore! You’ll learn to make the first move and walk right up to anyone who interests you and say “hello.” The first step to saying “hello” is following the simple and dynamic guidelines in this easy-to-read and personal book. Don Gabor provides good suggestions, helpful hints, and solid professional advice that will help you develop your very own sense of wit, style, and self-assurance.

The Intelligent Conversationalist

The Intelligent Conversationalist
31 Cheat Sheets That Will Show You How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, Anytime

Imogen Lloyd Webber

In eight cheat sheets, Imogen takes you through the facts that come up in most conversations: the English language, math/economics, religion, history, politics, geography, biology and culture. From the history of money to who signed The Magna Carta, Imogen shows you how to get back in a conversation, win any argument and most importantly, how to pivot out of a tough conversational bind.

The Like Switch

The Like Switch
An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over

Jack Schafer, PhD, Marvin Karlins, PhD

As a Special Agent for the FBI’s National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program, Schafer developed dynamic and breakthrough strategies for profiling terrorists and detecting deception. Now, he has evolved his proven-on-the-battlefield tactics for the day-to-day, but no less critical battle of getting people to like you. Learn to improve your LQ (Likeability Quotient), “spot the lie” both in person and online, master nonverbal cues that influence how people perceive you, and turn up or turn down the intensity of a relationship.

No One Understands You and What to Do About It

No One Understands You and What to Do About It

Heidi Grant Halvorson

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re just not getting through to the person you’re talking with, or coming across the way you intend to? You’re not alone. Our usual approach is to just talk louder, to try harder to get our message through. This is almost always the wrong approach. Why? Because other people almost never see us the way we see ourselves. Fortunately, these distortions in perception are systematic, understandable, and surmountable.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, bestselling author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently and Focus, now shows you how to communicate effectively-despite these unintentional (yet widespread) distortions of perception. By better understanding how communication and perception really work, you’ll learn to send the right signals at the right time, no matter who you’re communicating with.

People Tools

People Tools
54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity

Alan C. Fox

Getting along well with others is the real secret to success and happiness. In tens of thousands of classrooms we teach reading, writing, and arithmetic and yet we leave solutions to the universal problems of human relationships to be discovered, if at all, by trial and error. The trial is painful and the error is costly.

People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity provides time-proven techniques that you can use to build a better, happier, more successful life. It is the perfect resource for busy people looking for fast and effective solutions to the challenges we face every day.

Quiet Influence

Quiet Influence
The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD

Introverts may feel powerless in a world where extroverts seem to rule, but there’s more than one way to have some sway. Jennifer Kahnweiler proves introverts can be highly effective influencers when, instead of trying to act like extroverts, they use their natural strengths to make a difference. Kahnweiler identifies six unique strengths of introverts and includes a Quiet Influence Quotient (QIQ) quiz to measure how well you’re using these six strengths now. Then, through questions, tools, exercises, and powerful real-world examples, you will increase your mastery of these strengths.

Reclaiming Conversation

Reclaiming Conversation
The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Sherry Turkle

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do. The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

You're Not Listening

You’re Not Listening
What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

Kate Murphy

At work, we’re taught to lead the conversation. On social media, we shape our personal narratives. At parties, we talk over one another. So do our politicians. We’re not listening. And no one is listening to us. Despite living in a world where technology allows constant digital communication and opportunities to connect, it seems no one is really listening or even knows how. And it’s making us lonelier, more isolated, and less tolerant than ever before.

A listener by trade, New York Times contributor Kate Murphy wanted to know how we got here. In this always illuminating and often humorous deep dive, Murphy explains why we’re not listening, what it’s doing to us, and how we can reverse the trend. She makes accessible the psychology, neuroscience, and sociology of listening while also introducing us to some of the best listeners out there (including a CIA agent, focus group moderator, bartender, radio producer, and top furniture salesman). Equal parts cutting expose, rousing call to action, and practical advice, You’re Not Listening is to listening what Susan Cain’s Quiet was to introversion. It’s time to stop talking and start listening.