Top three books on workplace communication

1. Connecting With People – Two Crucial Skills by Philip Gould:

This is a brilliantly comprehensive look at the twin skills of assertiveness and empathy, specifically for the workplace, written by the head of Gould Training

It is available only as an ebook from Bookboon – you can get it for free if you sign up for their premium subscription, which comes with a 30-day free trial, then cancel the subscription before the free trial ends.  (they have quite a lot of interesting material – you could download a lot in a month!)

If you search the internet, you’ll find lots of material on assertiveness and empathy. I suggest you are wary, though, of the many articles which describe them as opposites – to me, that represents a misunderstanding of what assertiveness truly is: an honest, respectful approach that incorporates empathy for others.

2.  Crucial Conversations by Patterson/Grenny/McMillan/Switzler

From the VitalSmarts team, this book looks at how to address both content and relationship aspects of a conversation, with a focus on the workplace. Older editons are available very cheaply on Amazon.  The follow-up book, Crucial Confrontations, covers much of the same ground, but deals with more problematic behaviour and looks at motivation in more depth.

The VitalSmarts website is mainly aimed at marketing their services, but this is interesting: Law of the Hog.

3. Difficult Conversations by Stone/Patton/Heen

A classic from the Harvard Negotiation Project (I love all their stuff!). Not focused solely on the workplace, this is particularly valuable for its “three conversations” model of what is going on when people disagree.  They offer some usefully memorable phrases, such as turning a “battle of messages” into a “learning conversation” by telling “the third story” (i.e. framing the problem neutrally: “we have different standards of tidiness” rather than “you are so untidy”)

One day, I hope to attend their one-week negotiation course. Just so I can say I’ve studied at Harvard. (And because it’s brilliant)


Thanks, team leaders

Thank you twice over to the great little group of team leaders who attended my Communication Skills for Supervisors course at Bath College this month – firstly for the very positive feedback you gave on the course content, and thanks also for being such enthusiastic and mutually supportive students.

I learned a lot from you about what information is most useful for team leaders – and I was especially delighted to hear how one of you had used constructive communication techniques to deal with a particularly tricky workplace situation – after only the first session of the course!

For those of you who wanted a follow-up course,  I’ve given some thought to this and I have an idea you might like.  Frankly, the material we looked at over the four weeks covered most of the situations a supervisor would encounter – I suspect that what is really needed is the chance to look more deeply at how to apply the principles to specific difficulties.

The answer might be an ongoing coaching group, to run for maybe four or six weeks, in which members could discuss constructive communication issues in more depth than we can on a teaching course.   We could bring in some relevant learning material targetted at specific individual needs and members could work towards a particular goal. Let me know if this interests you.

Meanwhile, the course has sparked some thoughts about relevant ideas I can discuss or signpost people to in this blog. It could be the start of an ongoing conversation, so please do ask questions or suggest ideas in the comment section of this blog.