The best books on interpersonal communication and influence

Stuart Hanscomb Author Of Critical Thinking: The Basics
By Stuart Hanscomb

Who am I?

I am an academic at the University of Glasgow with a background in philosophy and psychology. My approach to critical thinking is broad and informed by several other teaching and research interests: emotional intelligence, the psychology of influence, interpersonal communication, and virtue ethics. Motivating much of what I do is the question: How are we to live well? With respect to critical thinking I don’t just deal with the nature and structure of arguments, but also with the role they play in constructive dialogues, and how poor reasoning is linked to psychological biases and the absence of certain virtues. The books I have chosen here are representative of these concerns.

I wrote...

Critical Thinking: The Basics

By Stuart Hanscomb,

Book cover of Critical Thinking: The Basics

What is my book about?

Critical Thinking: The Basics is an accessible and engaging introduction to the field of critical thinking, drawing on philosophy, communication, and psychology. Emphasising its relevance to decision making (in personal, professional, and civic life), academic literacy, and personal development, this book supports the reader in understanding and developing the knowledge and skills needed to identify poor reasoning, construct strong arguments, and engage critically in dialogues.

With discussion questions/exercises and suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter, this book is an essential read for students approaching the field of critical thinking for the first time, and for the general reader wanting to improve their thinking skills and decision-making abilities.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Argument Culture Moving From Debate to Dialogue

Why did I love this book?

I teach and write on critical thinking, and a branch of this discipline is interested in the role of dialogue in the process of truth-seeking. Discovering this book was huge for me because it discusses in depth so many of the impediments to constructive dialogue that I (and most of us) have encountered. Its subject is the motivational and cultural bases of disagreements and how we value and manage them, and there are of course some sound recommendations for how we can do better by shifting from what has become an automatic adversarial approach to one of ‘meaningful dialogue’.

By Deborah Tannen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Argument Culture Moving From Debate to Dialogue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her number one bestseller, You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen showed why talking to someone of the other sex can be like talking to someone from another world. Her bestseller Talking from 9 to 5 did for workplace communication what You Just Don't Understand did for personal relationships. Now Tannen is back with another groundbreaking book, this time widening her lens to examine the way we communicate in public--in the media, in politics, in our courtrooms and classrooms--once again letting us see in a new way forces that have been powerfully shaping our lives.
        The Argument Culture is about…

Book cover of Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain's Underclass

Why did I love this book?

This is a seamless combination of autobiography, psychology, and politics, with an emphasis on the role of emotion – and especially anger – in expressing our views. McGarvey is politically savvy and refreshingly critical of both the left and the right, but for me, it’s the sustained self-reflection and emotional intelligence that makes this book outstanding. He has witnessed how anger, as a default feeling in his community, entrenches positions and limits people’s willingness and ability to understand themselves and listen to others. McGarvey tells how his own story exemplifies this attitude and his account of his awakening is fascinating and educational.

By Darren McGarvey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poverty Safari as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brutally honest and fearless, Poverty Safari is an unforgettable insight into modern Britain, and will change how you think about poverty.

The Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.
Winner of the Orwell Prize.
Named the most 'Rebellious Read of the 21st Century' in a Scottish Book Trust poll.

Darren McGarvey has experienced poverty and its devastating effects first-hand. He knows why people from deprived communities all around Britain feel angry and unheard. And he wants to explain . . .

So he invites you to come on a safari of sorts. But not the kind where the wildlife is surveyed from…

Book cover of Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice

Why did I love this book?

As well as being academically sound this book is accessible and engaging, and it deals with subjects such as explaining, listening, assertiveness, negotiations, and persuasion in a way that is highly applied and always useful. Perhaps most importantly it addresses many of the aspects of interpersonal communication that I have for a long time found fascinating and challenging.

By Owen Hargie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skilled Interpersonal Communication as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

-Number one text for depth and comprehensive coverage: detailed analysis of existing knowledge and practice
-Comprehensively updated in 7th edition with latest research findings, theoretical developments and applications to practice.
-Well structured and easily navigable: topic areas clearly defined and packaged to fit course delivery
-Unmatched authority: highly recognized author and five previously successful editions
-Links theory to practice to help students learn and apply key skills
-Offers a strong UK-originated alternative to other US-oriented texts
-Flexible and cross-disciplinary: applies to a broad range of professional roles and contexts

Social Psychology

By Roger Brown,

Book cover of Social Psychology

Why did I love this book?

This is one of my favourite textbooks. It came out 20 years after the first edition and is not an update so much as be an entirely different book. Topics include attributional biases, group decision making, nonverbal communication, intergroup hostility, and conflict resolution. He writes in detail and in such an engaging fashion that, very unusually for a textbook, it’s an immersive experience. It’s academically rigorous but his personality, as well as his authority, is continually present through firsthand research, the occasional anecdote, and idiosyncratic inclusions. An example of the latter is his application of the principles of group polarization to the film Twelve Angry Men – a film I love and one of the best resources I know for teaching both social influence and argumentation.

By Roger Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Social Psychology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Providing a complete new set of information in the second edition, world renowned psychologist Roger Brown provides insight on language and communication, issues of sexual liberation, and equity and altruism in regard to social psychology.

A completely revised book with new organization and topics in comparison to the first volume, Social Psychology evaluates the pros and cons of current arguments in the ever-changing world of psychology.

In a balance of opinion and research in order to activate a flow of relevant memories and introspection, Roger Brown helps readers comprehend abstract concepts and principles in psychology. As each chapter is fully…

Book cover of Constructive Thinking: The Key to Emotional Intelligence

Why did I love this book?

Ostensibly a book about emotional intelligence, this is in effect an account of Epstein’s theory of the self (see Chapter 3 onwards). I am a strong advocate of ‘dual process’ theories, the idea that we have two minds or modes of thinking, one that is fast, automatic, and reliant on heuristics, and another that is slower, deliberative, and rational. The most famous example of this is in the work of Kahneman and Tversky, who have identified various biases we employ in quick decision making. This understanding is vital for effective critical thinking, but I find Epstein’s notion of an affect-driven ‘experiential’ system to have deeper and more wide-ranging explanatory power. This applies both to self-knowledge, and to how we can engage more constructively with others.

By Seymour Epstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Constructive Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a book on how to gain control of one's emotions. It is a serious book that contains a theory of automatic processing it presents and its implications for controlling emotions. Epstein is a professor of personality psychology and a highly regarded research psychologist who has supported his theory with extensive research published in the most demanding professional journals. He was motivated to write the book by the success of a course he taught based on his theory. Students reported obtaining an understanding and control of their emotions that they never thought possible and that they said changed the…

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