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 about people 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 nine 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 serves as complements to each other.
I’ve tried to list them in order of their target audience, so the first ones will be most helpful to people on the shyer/socially inexperienced end of the spectrum, while the latter ones will be more helpful to people who want to refine their social skills or take them next-level.
The Nine Best Books on Social 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 you can use 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 fellas, trust me: this middle-aged woman has a lot to teach young men. (Not like that, you perv.)
This is one of the best books on social skills 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.”
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Written 80 years ago, Carnegie’s book holds up so well that today it’s 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 one’s 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’s got good tips that can help you stand out from the socializing crowd.
This is one of the best books on 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.
Best of the Rest
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 top-rated books on social skills as ranked by Amazon users, and a brief summary of what each book is about.
(shameless plug alert!)
Man in Command
How to Go From the Most Self-Doubting Guy in the Room to The Most Confident Man
4.5 Stars on Amazon
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
4.3 Stars on Amazon
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!
4.3 Stars on Amazon
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
4.3 Stars on Amazon
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
4.4 Stars on Amazon
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
4.4 Stars on Amazon
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.
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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
- Bestsellers in Communications and Social Skills – Amazon
- Popular Social Skills Books – Goodreads