Last year, I wrote up a document of social skills resources I'd prepared for sharing with others and possibly making a post. I haven't yet made that post, so I'll dump what I've got here. Sorry for not including links and better presentation generally, I'm short on time just at the moment.
Dump of a Google Doc from June 2018.
Although this document lists the books which have helped me interact better with others, I’d attribute the bulk of any gains I’ve made in social skills to simply observing others carefully. More than any theory or recommendations, I’ve found that paying careful attention to how people say things, their body language, their responses, etc., has helped my social skill and understanding. My best guess is that if you throw enough data at your mind (at least of this sort), it will learn what do it with. So read the books in doc, but I as much advise others to pay more attention to others if want to improve.
Also, a major component of social skills is having your own shit together. Or at least, my own ability to interact well with others has increased alongside mastery of myself. Emotions, fears, insecurities, desires, agendas, prejudices, etc., all interfere with one’s ability to interact well with others.
Start With No by Jim Camp
This is a book on negotiation (mostly enterprise and corporate) but it drove home some crucial general lessons for me that hadn’t fully sunk-in from elsewhere: 1) the utmost importance of inhabiting the world of your “adversary” (or conversation partner), 2) the skills of listening well and asking good questions, 3) investing the effort to think about what your “adversary” really wants, 4) focusing on what you can control (actions) rather than outcomes, 5) investing the time to understand what your adversary wants, even when they themselves don’t know.
Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery
Personality Type systems aren’t always the most rigorous or predictive models, but those responsible for the Enneagram have paid a lot of attention to humans and what drives them. I’ve found Enneagram materials to be very useful for recognizing underlying patterns of motivation and behavior in myself and others; and in particular, it helped me appreciate how what’s driving other people is quite different from what’s driving me most of the time.
The Charisma Myth
It’s been a few years and I’m due for a re-read, but I liked this book. Links charisma to learnable traits/states of mind and actions which can be learned.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
This book is aimed at bosses and managers and does a fantastic job at describing how to set-up a two-way, feedback-rich relationship notwithstanding professional context and power asymmetries. Worth reading for most people.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
Related to non-violent communication, this book is really good for getting you to think about the emotional state and desires of your interlocutor as well as your own. It generalizes well to adults.
Makes for good relationships when generally adopted. The skill of learning to say things without making others defensive is definitely worth learning.
Circling & Authentic Relating [not a book, but start attending groups and sessions on these.]
Elephant in the Brain
The Gervais Principle & Be Slightly Evil: A Playbook for Sociopaths
These two books by Venkatesh Rao’s are great resources on status. While Elephant in the Brain explains why status is such fundamental motivation and shows how it explains broad macro features of society, Rao’s books analyze status in individual interactions.
While I encourage people to become more aware of status if you don’t think about it much, I strongly caution them not to obsess about it.
Books I Have Only Read Small Parts Of
- Games People Play
- I’m OK-You’re OK
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Caldini
- Definitely the Dark Arts. I read a few chapters and it’s interesting to see the subtle tricks people can employ to get us to say yes to things. If you say yes more often than you like, worth reading.
Books I Have Collected by Not Yet Read
(Appears, I have a habit of buying books on social skills whenever I see them and then forgetting about them.)
- How to Speak How to Listen by Mortimer Adler
- The Charisma Code
- It’s Not All About “Me”
- Superhuman Social Skills
- The Social Skills Guidebook
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- The Definitive Book of Body Language
Books on Relationships
A General Theory of Love
You might expect a book about romantic love, but it instead spends a lot of time focusing on Infant attachment. Still, very interesting for modeling human attachment in general.
Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) A Dismissive Avoidant Partner
Generally helpful book on the topic of Attachment Styles. Useful for understanding that different people have learnt (or deeply ingrained) different patterns of behavior in relationship and that the interaction of these patterns matters.
The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship
This is a crazy book. But has some great stuff on letting your partner be who they are recognizing that you’re not responsible for solving all your partner’s problems.
A more charitable interpretation is that they are trying to assume less, going a little more meta and explaining the general problem, instead of focusing on specifics that they thing are important, but might not really be.
A failure mode when people don't try to do this is the user that asks a software developer to "just add a button that allows me to autofill this form", when maybe there's an automation that renders the form totally unnecessary.