Every aspect of life that’s ever made me feel nervous, intimidated or downright scared was one I didn’t really understand.
For instance, before I picked up a fitness magazine and started learning how to start a workout plan, the prospect of going to the gym horrified me.
Likewise, just thinking about how to make good small talk (or more terrifying still, how to talk to attractive women) was enough to cover me in a flop sweat, until I discovered that bookstores carry reams of titles about talking to people and improving your social skills.
Study, Then Socialize
After consuming dozens of books on communication skills and conversation hacks, I eventually came to realize that social skills are just like any other skills: they can be learned, practiced and honed.
And while you could spend years learning through pure trial and error, I highly recommend giving yourself a head start by doing a little studying first.
The titles below represent the absolute best books on social skills that I’ve come across.
Each one focuses on a slightly different aspect of socializing, and while a few address similar issues, they mostly serve as complements to each other.
The Best Social Skills Books
Breaking Down the Best Books on Social Skills & Communication Skills
Goodbye to Shy
When learning how to become more social, some guys don’t feel like they can dive right into talking to people – they need advice about getting over their own internal hesitation first.
If you feel too shy, reserved or hesitant to just dive right in and start making small talk, this book will provide you with a ton of strategies to get over your nerves and feel more comfortable wading into social situations.
But feeling comfortable enough to enter a social situation is one thing; knowing what to say and do is another. That’s where the next book on this list, from the same author, will come in handy.
How to Talk to Anyone
I may not have believed it myself, but trust me:
This middle-aged woman has a lot to teach young men. (Not like that, you perv.)
This is one of the best social skills books because it’s one of the few books whose subtitle, “92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships,” actually delivers.
It’s probably done more to improve my social success than any other resource. When I was considering reading it, I checked out the Amazon reviews and was sold when I read, “This book can make you into a special person.”
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call myself a special person, but I’ll say this: How to Talk to Anyone has probably done more to help me inch closer to earning that moniker one than any other book on communication skills or social skills.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Written 80 years ago, Carnegie’s book holds up so well that today it’s still regarded as one of the most seminal and best books on social skills ever written.
Multiple new editions have been released by Carnegie’s estate since the original, but the book’s bread and butter is the fact that his original advice, though anecdotal, stands the test of time.
Carnegie breaks the book into sections that sound like manna from heaven to guys who want to strengthen their social skills: “Six Ways to Make People Like You,” and “Fundamental Techniques for Handling People” among them.
Though his claims are lofty, for the most part his advice is sound. This is one of the absolute best social skills books, and an absolute must-read.
The Charisma Myth
Of the many revelations in Fox Cabane’s book, the most important (for me anyway) was this:
Charisma is something you can turn on and off.
While it may often seem like charisma is some magic power possessed only by those lucky enough to be born extroverted, Cabane demonstrates that charisma is actually more like a muscle – and this book will teach you how to flex it.
How to Instantly Connect with Anyone
At this point I know what you’re thinking, but I swear:
I am neither the heir to Leil Lowndes’ estate, nor her (scandalously young) lover. I just think her books are really helpful!
Possible May-December romances aside, this one is similar in structure to How to Talk to Anyone, but its techniques are a little more ninja.
Where How to Talk to Anyone is a great way to get conversations (and relationships) started, this one helps you take them to the next level.
Charming Your Way to the Top
By Michael Levine
And speaking of taking relationships next level…
Once you get used to carrying on a conversation and interacting with others, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to do it not just competently, but charmingly.
This book is a great, practical guide to doing just that.
Written by a PR executive, the book emphasizes the value of being charming from a business perspective: charming people have an easier time landing a job, getting promoted and sealing the deal.
Fortunately, charming people also have an easier time landing a date, getting into a relationship and, well, sealing the deal. So the book’s many practical lessons definitely have multiple applications.
How to Work a Room
Once you’ve got a few tips under your belt and learned how to be more charming, you can move from merely being comfortable in a room to working it.
Like Charming Your Way to the Top, this book leans a little professional, providing tips for talking to people at networking events, but it also covers weddings, parties and other social situations.
Overall, it makes the list of the best social skills books because it offers good tips that can help you stand out from the socializing crowd.
This is one of the best books on improving social skills not because it teaches you what to say, but because it explains how people perceive you.
In Compelling People, communications experts John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut summarize their years of research and experience.
Their thesis is simple: “when we decide how we feel about someone, we are making not one judgment, but two. The criteria that count are what we call ‘strength’ and ‘warmth.'”
Strength, they explain, is “a person’s capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will” while warmth is “the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests and views of the world.”
But understanding what strength and warmth are is the easy part – the trick is implementing them in our daily lives, and learning how to harness the power of this insight to our advantage.
The book provides a roadmap showing you how to do just that.
How to be a People Magnet
Once Again by Leil Lowndes
Yes, it’s another book by Leil Lowndes. And again, no, I don’t have any special connection to her that makes me recommend her books.
Actually, I guess that’s not entirely true. I do have one connection to her: I feel grateful for having read her books.
Here Lowndes uses the same formula as her previous books, but focuses on what’s essentially the holy grail of socializing: becoming the sort of magnet personality that doesn’t just do well in social situations, but owns them.
Here she offers insight and advice that will help you be the sort of person others are attracted to – in both a platonic and romantic sense – which will make you not just a better socializer, but a better friend, boyfriend, and (dare I say it) man.
The (Other) Best Books on Communication Skills
Exploring Amazon’s Top-Rated Books on Social Skills
I’ve personally read and benefited from each of the nine books above, but they’re hardly the only titles that will help you learn how to strengthen your social skills and interact with others.
Below are some of the best books on communication and social skills as ranked by Amazon users, along with the a brief summary provided by Amazon that explains what you’ll learn from each book.
Man in Command
How to Go From the Most Self-Doubting Guy in the Room to The Most Confident Man
(shameless plug alert!)
With my first book, which became an Amazon #1 best-seller (in Canada, but still!), I set out to write the definitive guide for going from insecure self-doubter to self-assured achiever.
A big part of my focus is on helping you develop the conversational and social competence that naturally and inevitably leads to more personal confidence.
Improve Your Social Skills
Improve Your Social Skills is a comprehensive, practical guide to social skills.
It contains 200+ pages of step-by-step, easy-to-understand explanations of social interaction, written by a professional social skills coach whose TEDx talk on overcoming the social challenges of Asperger’s Syndrome has been viewed over 180,000 times.
The Fine Art of Small Talk
How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression!
Nationally recognized communication expert Debra Fine reveals the techniques and strategies anyone can use to make small talk–in any situation.
Do you spend an abnormal amount of time hiding out in the bathroom or hanging out at the buffet table at social gatherings? Does the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger make your stomach do flip-flops? Do you sit nervously through job interviews waiting for the other person to speak? Are you a “Nervous Ned or Nellie” when it comes to networking?
Then it’s time you mastered The Fine Art of Small Talk.
Better Small Talk
Talk to Anyone, Avoid Awkwardness, Generate Deep Conversations, and Make Real Friends
Networking events suck, but they can suck less. What to say and when to say to be likable, connect, and make a memorable impression.
Actionable and applicable verbal maneuvers for just about every phase of conversation. From hello to goodbye, with strangers or old friends, you’ll learn how to simply go deeper.
Make Yourself Unforgettable
How to Become the Person Everyone Remembers and No One Can Resist
From one of the most trusted and bestselling brands in business training, Make Yourself Unforgettable reveals how to develop and embody unforgettable qualities so you can become the effective and desirable colleague and friend possible.
Learn how to develop and embody the ten essential elements of being unforgettable!
Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness
Conversationally Speaking has become the most popular book in the world teaching conversation skills. Millions of people have used it to learn the secrets of effective communication.
This revised edition provides more ways to improve your conversation skills by giving you strategies that work for starting conversations, asking questions that promote interaction, interesting people in what you have to say, listening so that others will be encouraged to talk, avoiding rejection-producing behavior, handling criticism constructively, and more.
The Social Skills Guidebook
Manage Shyness, Improve Your Conversations, and Make Friends, Without Giving Up Who You Are
You think your social life could be better. You’ve felt shy as long as you can remember. Your conversations have more awkward moments than you’d like. Maybe you don’t need a ton of friends, but you’d like to have some people to hang out with on occasion.
You want to make changes, but you don’t know where to start. Lots of people have been in your shoes, so you’re hardly a lost cause, and it’s never too late to turn things around.
The Social Skills Guidebook gives you insights into your interpersonal struggles and behaviors, and offers hands-on advice for developing and improving your people skills.
Your Guide to Improving Social Intelligence, Developing Charisma, and Learning How to Talk to Anyone
Are you constantly struggling to put your thoughts into words? Have your emotions gotten the best of you and caused friction within your team? Have you always been the meek, shy type who everyone talks over?
Well, not anymore!
Become compelling and unforgettable anywhere, anytime with the help of “Communication Skills” by master communicator Devin White!
This guide is all you need to learn how to talk to anyone, improve your social intelligence, and strengthen your charisma… because YOU have the potential to be great!
The Science of Succeeding with People
Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date, or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.
As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab – and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems, and behavior hacks for taking charge of interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school.
This is the first comprehensive, science-backed, real-life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.
How to Talk to Anyone About Anything
Improve Your Social Skills, Master Small Talk, Connect Effortlessly, and Make Real Friends
Have you always struggled with making small talk and want to stop feeling awkward?
Do you wish to be able to tell stories where your listeners hang on to your every word?
Do you wish you had the courage, the confidence, and the charisma to meet new people and make friends with them?
If you’ve answered yes, this is the book for you!
How to Talk to Anyone About Anything: Improve Your Social Skills, Master Small Talk, Connect Effortlessly, and Make Real Friends is your complete guide to help you do just that.
The chapters within this book cover everything you need to know to fully embrace your true self and become the most enthralling conversationalist in ANY room!
Read People Like a Book
How to Analyze, Understand, and Predict People’s Emotions, Thoughts, Intentions, and Behaviors
Read People Like a Book isn’t a normal book on body language of facial expressions.
Yes, it includes all of those things, as well as new techniques on how to truly detect lies in your everyday life, but this book is more about understanding human psychology and nature.
We are who we are because of our experiences and pasts, and this guides our habits and behaviors more than anything else.
Parts of this book read like the most interesting and applicable psychology textbook you’ve ever read. Take a look inside yourself and others!
The Art of Witty Banter
Be Clever, Quick, & Magnetic
In any interaction, witty banter is almost always the end goal. It allows you to (1) disarm and connect with anyone, (2) immediately exit boring small talk mode, and (3) instantly build rapport like you’re old friends.
The Art of Witty Banter examines the art, nuance, and mechanics of banter and charm to make you awitty comeback machine, the likes of which your friends have never seen.
You’ll be able to handle, defend, disarm, and engage others in a way that makes you comfortable and confident with each growing day.
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- Advice for Shy Guys – Irreverent Gent
- How to Make Good Small Talk – Irreverent Gent
- How to Tell if a Self-Help Book is Legit or Full of Shit in 5 Easy Steps – Irreverent Gent
- How to Keep a Conversation Going – Irreverent Gent
- The 15 Best Porn Addiction Books to Help You Kick the Habit – Irreverent Gent
- Bestsellers in Communications and Social Skills – Amazon
- Popular Social Skills Books – Goodreads