Communication Books

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

- George Bernard Shaw

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Nonfiction Writing - 9.5/10

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition - 9.5/10

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life - 9/10

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

How to Win Friends and Influence People - 9/10

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - 9/10

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't - 9/10

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - 9/10
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It - 9/10

We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter - 8.5/10

Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, and Build a Successful Business 8.5/10

Talk Like TED - The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the Worlds Top Minds - 8.5/10

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others - 8.5/10

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High - 8/10

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In - 8/10

The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning - 7.5/10


by William Zinsser

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"A fundamental rule of writing is: be yourself."

"Never say anything in writing you wouldn't comfortably say in person."

"Learn to write by reading the men and women who are doing the kind of writing you want to do and figure out how they did it."

"You learn to write by writing."

"Don't hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident."

Why this book?

Writing is a skill that needs to be learned and honed. It is also a skill that is required for but often neglected by, nearly every professional. You may not write articles or books for your job, but you likely write emails or perhaps reports and briefings. Writing an email or a report is not the same thing as texting or tweeting, yet that is the style often used. Writing good English allows us to more effectively express information and reach an audience. You may never want to write articles, but learning to write well is a valuable skill that will set you apart from others in your profession.


by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

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I do not have quotes for this book as it is a short book of rules. All of it is relevant. Here is an example:

"Rule #17 Omit needless words: Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” 

This is one of the most important rules any writer can adhere to.

Why this book:

See notes for On Writing Well. While Zinsser addresses various types of non-fiction, such as writing a newspaper column, a book, or a work report, Strunk Jr. and White stick to the basics. The Elements of Style is on my list of early must-reads. It is short and to the point. It contains a series of writing rules, many with examples, that are clear and insightful. Your writing will improve with this book at your side.


by Anne Lamott

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"Good writing is about telling the truth."

"Embrace really, really shitty first drafts. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. Need to start somewhere."

"Your readers are going to catch you if you try to fake it."

"To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care."

"We don't have time to waste not writing because we are afraid we won't be good enough at it."

Why this book?

I am not a fiction writer and I have no intention of writing fiction, yet this book taught me a great deal about the writing process. Lamott pulls back the curtains and opening writes about the struggles writers often face. The humor and emotion of the book make it inviting and engaging, even the portions directly intended to help with writing fiction. Anyone looking to improve their writing and write more frequently should grab a copy of this book.

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Steven King

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"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones."

"Fear is at the root of most bad writing."

"Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affection. Affection itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as "good" and other sorts as "bad", is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with."

"Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then got on with your story."

"A man's got to know his limitation."

Why this book?

This book is both entertaining and informative. King shares his journey in becoming one of the most prolific horror writers in history. Despite King being a fiction writer, many of his lessons apply to non-fiction writing. King believes writers are separated into one of four categories: the bad ones, the competent writers (may be published, like to read and write), the really good writers, the geniuses (Shakespeare, Faulkner, Yeats, Shaw, Eudora Welty)

King goes on to explain two simple theses that comprise his philosophy on writing:

  1. Good writing requires mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) prior to layering on your individual voice

  2. It is impossible to turn a bad writer into a competent one or a really good writer into a genius. It is, however, possible to turn a competent writer into a really good one, provided substantiation hard work, dedication, and timely help are involved. Basically, the only movement possible on the pyramid is from levels 2 to 3. If you are on levels 1 or 4, get comfortable.

My goal is to move from level 2 to 3. I believe one can ascend from level 1, but it will require extraordinary effot.


How to Win Friends & Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

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“It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”

“You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

Why this book?

This was the second book Emory gave its DPT graduates. Regardless of the career path you choose, building relationships will be key. This book is a staple for many leaders and has been among the most recommended leadership and self-development books for decades.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

by Susan Cain

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“We put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking."

"Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive."

"More creative people tend to be socially poised introverts. They are interpersonally skilled but not of an especially sociable or participative temperament. They describe themselves as independent and individualistic."

"We can stretch our personalities but only up to a point. Our inborn temperament influences us regardless of the lives we lead."

"'Personality Environment Fit' shows that people flourish when they're engaged in occupations, roles, and settings that are concordant with their personalities."

Why this book?

As an introvert who stretches himself to be more extroverted when teaching, presenting, and building a social following, this book provided answers, validation, and more questions to explore. Cain, a self-described introvert, explores the history of introversion/extroversion and the cultural expectations of temperament. She uses research and cases to describe the effect introversion/extroversion has on our careers, relationships, and upbringing. Introversion is not something to be stamped out. Introversion yields many beneficial quality extroverts struggle to replicate. Successful businesses require both introverts and extroverts.  We should own our temperament, find the best personal fits for work, and learn to understand and interact with individuals that differ from us.

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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't

by Malcolm Gladwell

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“Illusion of asymmetric insight: The conviction that we know others better than they know us - that we may have insights about them they lack (but not vice versa) - leads us to talk when we would do well to listen and to be less patient than we ought when others express the conviction that they are the ones who are being misunderstood or judged unfairly."

"We have a default to truth: our operating assumption is that people we are dealing with are honest."

"We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgiving rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away."

"Coupling is the idea that behaviors are linked to very specific circumstances and conditions."

"The first set of mistakes we make with strangers - the default to truth and the illusion of transparency - has to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual. But on top of those errors, we add another which pushes our problem with strangers into crisis. We do not understand the importance of the context in which the stranger is operating."

Why this book?

Talking to Strangers questions our ability to read people. Through research, Gladwell demonstrates most people are terrible lie detectors, despite their subjective beliefs. Our ability to read people, in general, is highly dependent on context. The book does not profess we should mistrust everyone, but rather we should question initial judgments. We must realize that our brain is easily tricked and we avoid conflict. Our brain craves congruency and substantial data is needed to change our minds. It also covers the laws of unintended consequences regarding specific training of human interaction. It is a fascinating read.

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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell

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“The key to getting people to change their behavior sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation. The Power of Context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem."

"The Fundamental Attribution Error is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behaviors human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimate the importance of situation and context."

"If you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people's beliefs and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practical and expressed and nurtured."

"The Law of the Few says that Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen are responsible for starting word-of-mouth epidemics, which means that if you are interested in starting a word-of-mouth epidemic, your resources out to be solely concentrated on those three groups. No one else matters."

"When people are overwhelmed with information and develop immunity to traditional forms of communication, they turn instead for advice and information to the people in their lives whom they respect, admire, and trust. The cure for immunity is finding Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen."

Why this book?

Spreading a message is challenging. Many word-of-mount epidemics sprout randomly and seem inconceivable at first glance. Gladwell explores the power of three groups of people - Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen - and the psychological underlay that influences the spread of word-of-mouth epidemics. He introduces the idea of "sticky" ideas (the Health brothers based their book Made to Stick off this idea) to better explain why some messages grab our attention and others don't. For anyone trying to reach an audience - no matter how large - and deliver a message that will stick and be spread, the concepts in this book will significantly help. If nothing else, it is a fascinating read.

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Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

by Chris Voss

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“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”

“Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So, don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.”

“Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts. One”

“The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it.”

“Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door.”

Why this book?

This is a fascinating book exploring the world of negotiation. Chris Voss shares his stories from his life as a hostage negotiator. He blends innovative experiences with updated psychology research. People often think of job compensation and car shopping when the topic of negotiation is brought up. Voss shows many applications of negotiating and how to use strategies employed by the best hostage negotiators in the world.

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We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter

by Celeste Headlee

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“One of the most important skills in the 21st century is being able to sustain confident, coherent conversation."

"In conversations, as in life, you can't control what someone else does or says, you can only control yourself."

"Five key strategies that help facilitate productive dialogue: be curious, check your bias, show respect, stay the course, end well."

"Try to listen for ideas. While the other person is talking, think about the deeper meaning of their words and their thoughts. Watch their facial expressions and gestures. What are they really trying to say?"

"A good conversation requires energy and focus - two commodities in short supply, if you're unable to engage meaningfully, I would advise not engaging at all."

Why this book?

In a world that heavily emphasizes rapid communication and social media, in-depth, meaningful conversations are often in short supply. This book looks at some of the underlying causes of poor conversation (social media, declining empathy, short attention spans) and solutions. While some of the strategies are not novel (active listening, open-ended questions, don't interrupt) others are more nuanced. This book covers sound conversational strategies for both formal engagements (e.g. podcast interview) and informal conversations (e.g. coffee with a friend). It is not a book full of quick hacks and tricks but rather one that teaching long-term strategies that require practice and refinement.


Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, and Build a Successful Business

by Pat Flynn

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“Once you’ve found the people in your target audience and begun learning about their problems—and most importantly, how they talk about those problems—you’ll be setting yourself up to connect with that audience authentically and effectively for as long as you’re in business.”

“Your role, instead, is to find out what people are talking about, and more importantly, how they’re talking about it.”

“You don’t need to change the entire world to build a successful business; you just need to change someone’s world.”

“When you become a superfan of something, it’s not because of a person, a product, a name, or a brand. You become a superfan because of how that person, product, or brand makes you feel.”

“If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.”

Why this book?

This book is specific to building, well, superfans. Superfans are your tribe, your following, the people who will in you, and your brand without question. If you develop a new product or service, they are the first to sign up. If you have advice or recommendations to give, they are the first to take note. This book is not about manipulating people, but instead about harnessing the right tools and the right time to spread your message. Pat supports missions that serve others. The goal of building Superfans is not to build wealth - that is a nice byproduct - but to reach more people to serve. This book will help you do just that.

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Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds

by Carmine Gallo

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"Stories are facts with a soul."

"You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself."

"Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend."

"An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation intrigues the audience, jolts them out of their preconceived notions, and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world."

"Constrained presentations require more creativity. What isn't there makes what is there even stronger."

Why this book?

I have written about the importance of writing well. Speaking well is often equally important. While Talk Like Ted focuses on presentations, specifically TedTalks, it is applicable to any type of verbal communication setting, including one on one conversations with patients. Our body language, our cadence, our choice of words, our use of stories, and our belief in the words we are saying all influence the effectiveness of the message delivered. Like any skill, this takes practice.. This book can provide a solid framework for any time up the presentation and is valuable for both skill speakers and novices with stage fright.

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To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

by Daniel Pink

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"Everyone is in sales"

"It is easier to sell something to someone when you know doing so will improve their life."

"Attuning yourself to others - exiting your own perspective and entering theirs - is essential to moving others."

"People are more likely to act, and to perform well, when the motivations are from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic processes."

"The ability to move others hinges less on problem-solving than on problem finding."

Why this book?

Sales often has a negative connotation. We think of used car salesmen trying to manipulate us, telemarketers interrupting our days, and spam emails flooding our inboxes. The reality is we all are in sales. When a clinician develops a plan of care and tells the patient how often they need treatment, they are selling. When a new graduate is negotiating a higher salary, they are selling. When a researcher writes a cover letter for a manuscript submission, they are selling. Selling does not have to be a manipulation, and this book describes various strategies that truly lead to a win-win.


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan

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"The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation."

"In the worst companies, poor performers are ignored and transferred. In good companies, bosses eventually deal with problems. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable - regardless of level or position."

"When it comes to risky, controversial, and emotional conversations, skilled people find a way to get all relevant information (from themselves and others) out into the open.

"Skilled people start with heart. They begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused no matter what happens."

"A desire to win drives away healthy dialogue."

Why this book?

You cannot avoid crucial conversations. They pop up in our personal and professional lives with regularity. Your ability to effectively hold one can be the difference in having a strong or destructive relationship. It is a skill to be practiced. This book lays the groundwork and the tools to help you improve your skills at initiating and conducting crucial conversations.

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by Roger Fisher and William Ury

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"Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by 3 criteria: 1)It should produce a wise agreement; 2) it should be efficient; 3) it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between parties."

"Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate"

"Understanding someone's point of view is not the same as agreeing with it.

"The ongoing relationship is far more important than the outcome."

"How you see the world depends on where you sit."

Why this book?

Negotiating, like sales in general, is part of everyone's life. It does not only occur in the presence of lawyers or during job interviews. This book describes the power of negotiating well without the gimmicks of manipulation. It proposes methods that facilitate win-win situations that preserve the relationship. "The ongoing relationship is far more important than the outcome." This book provides valuable insights into negotiation, which clinicians often have to employ with their patients while ensuring the relationship does not end. Many times, negotiations are viewed as a battle to gain the most ground with a clear winner and loser. That is a surefire way to ensure the relationship crumbles. Instead, using the tactics in this book will allow you to establish a negotiation that benefits both parties. This book pairs well with To Sell is Human and Crucial Conversations.

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The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning

by James Zull

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"Learning depends on experience, but it also requires reflection, developing abstractions, and active testing of our abstractions."

"Our best chance to help another person learn is to find out what they want, what they care about."

"If we want to help people learn, we should not worry about how we can motivate them, but try to identify what already is motivating them."

"Our emotions influence our thinking more than our thinking influences our emotions."

"Everything that we are learning and have learned about the brain says that we must respect the uniqueness of the individual learner."

Why this book?

I debated whether to include this book. It filled up a large section of a commonplace book as it is full of valuable insights for teaching and learning. The writing can make it challenging to read at times. Every page has multiple explanation marks (yes that Is a big deal), several of the stories fall flat, and he often repeats information. While repeating information can reinforce learning, the manner it was completed in the book feels more redundant than educational. But, the information alone makes this book well worth the read.

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