16 votes

What's a good book to help me communicate better with people?

I've been told that the way I talk gives the impression that I lack empathy, that I lack emotion altogether, or worse, that I feel negative emotions towards others. This is far from the truth, and I wish I was able to convey that. One would think that's a trivial task, but I lack basic social skills. Truthfully, most of the time I don't have a strong desire to get in touch with my feelings. I don’t think there's anything wrong with me, but I'm tired of being accused of insensitiveness and suffering the consequences of this judgement.

19 comments

  1. [6]
    knocklessmonster
    Link
    Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is a really good book. The title is kind of cheeky if you've ever heard the title and felt concerned. It's largely about how and why to...

    Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is a really good book. The title is kind of cheeky if you've ever heard the title and felt concerned. It's largely about how and why to treat people with empathy, how people behave, and how to use these traits of human behavior to benefit everybody in everyday interactions.

    11 votes
    1. [5]
      dozens
      Link Parent
      Your mileage may vary. The parts of this book that are like, "Don's say anything negative about people", and "Learn people's names" are nice. But the "Influence People" bits came across as so...

      Your mileage may vary. The parts of this book that are like, "Don's say anything negative about people", and "Learn people's names" are nice. But the "Influence People" bits came across as so manipulative and horrible.

      7 votes
      1. knocklessmonster
        Link Parent
        Even Carnegie acknowledges the issue with that, and repeatedly warns that if you try to use his tactics to use people, you'll have a hard time.

        Even Carnegie acknowledges the issue with that, and repeatedly warns that if you try to use his tactics to use people, you'll have a hard time.

        12 votes
      2. [3]
        lou
        Link Parent
        Yeah, it's a bit hard to get over some things about this book...

        Yeah, it's a bit hard to get over some things about this book...

        1. [2]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          I've heard this many times, but it is still by far one of the easiest books to digest with some of the most poignant tips I've ever read. It's easy to point fingers at the 'influence people' part...

          I've heard this many times, but it is still by far one of the easiest books to digest with some of the most poignant tips I've ever read. It's easy to point fingers at the 'influence people' part of the title, but if you read the book (especially the later editions with extra notes) you'll find that Dale Carnegie very adequately addresses this concern and is not setting out to attempt to manipulate others and as @knocklessmonster mentions will actively warn you against attempting to do so. It is worth nearly anyone's time to give it at least a single read, if not multiple.

          8 votes
          1. lou
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Thanks for clarifying. I got the audiobook and will give it another shot. I find some books more suitable to audio, maybe that's one of them.

            Thanks for clarifying. I got the audiobook and will give it another shot. I find some books more suitable to audio, maybe that's one of them.

            2 votes
  2. [13]
    Gaywallet
    Link
    What have you done in the past to try and convey your feelings? Do you actively share them or are people left guessing? Care to elaborate on this a bit more? Why don't you have a desire to get in...

    I lack emotion altogether, or worse, that I feel negative emotions towards others. This is far from the truth, and I wish I was able to convey that.

    What have you done in the past to try and convey your feelings? Do you actively share them or are people left guessing?

    Truthfully, most of the time I don't have a strong desire to get in touch with my feelings.

    Care to elaborate on this a bit more? Why don't you have a desire to get in touch with your feelings?

    I'm tired of being accused of insensitiveness and suffering the consequences of this judgement

    Can you provide some examples of how you've reacted to others so that we can have the context of what was insensitive?

    It's a bit hard to provide some advice when you're being vague about the problem. There's nearly unlimited ways to fail to communicate with another person, and understanding some of the general themes can be useful in pinpointing what kind of skills you need to work on.

    6 votes
    1. [12]
      lou
      Link Parent
      Sure, I can try being more specific. Conveying emotion does not come naturally to me. I cannot rely on my intuition, otherwise I only make things worse. I must rationally analyze others to be able...

      Sure, I can try being more specific. Conveying emotion does not come naturally to me. I cannot rely on my intuition, otherwise I only make things worse. I must rationally analyze others to be able to mimic their behavior and successfully interact in social situations. Every book and self assessment I find tells me I'm most likely Asperger's, but I don't have an actual diagnosis. My tone of voice is usually unaffected by emotion. I'm usually concerned with using language that is precise. Objectivity is often read as rudeness. I don't have a lot of facial expressions. More often than not, strong emotions are unpleasant to me. I don't really wanna change who I am in order to conform, but it would be nice to be able to translate myself in a way that others find acceptable.

      6 votes
      1. [10]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        Socializing is called socializing and not just communicating for a reason. Communication, or the exchange of ideas, is an important part of socializing and the precision of language is important...

        Socializing is called socializing and not just communicating for a reason. Communication, or the exchange of ideas, is an important part of socializing and the precision of language is important to this, but another aspect of socialization is the communication of emotion and the human experience itself. Have you ever wondered why people like humor? Or enjoy sharing similar experiences? Connecting with other humans is an innate desire that many of us enjoy, and emotions are an integral part of this.

        There's really still not a lot to work with here as you're still responding with general themes, rather than specifics. For example, you say objectivity is often read as rudeness, but this is still a very vague concept. I can think of plenty of ways in which objectivity will almost certainly be read as being rude, such as interrupting the other person while they speak every time anything is uncertain to you and ways in which objectivity will almost always be read as quite the opposite, such as when one waits for the appropriate time to ask open inviting questions about the other participants experience. I would imagine neither of these extremes apply to you and I need more concrete, precise examples of your behavior to provide better advice. Knowing how the other person responded can be incredibly helpful also, as people are individual and some may over or under-react to appropriate communication because of the sum of their own experiences in life.

        Becoming better at communicating is not about changing who you are in order to conform, but rather improving your skills to help convey what you wish to convey in the right manner. You have correctly recognized that many people can rely on external factors such as facial expressions to read emotion and connect with other humans, but I think you are mistaken in thinking that you must learn to convey your emotions through your face (read: change who you are) in order to convey the same message. It is entirely possible to convey happiness in a way that a facial expression likely cannot, such as a writer or poet may through their words alone. There are many ways to communicate and I believe what will be most helpful for you is to identify the specific struggles you have and how to augment your communication to offset them.

        4 votes
        1. [9]
          lou
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Thanks. I'll describe some actual/hypothetical scenarios in the interest of making this thread useful for me and possibly others. Lou told a joke, but forgot to put any inflexion to it. Now...

          Thanks. I'll describe some actual/hypothetical scenarios in the interest of making this thread useful for me and possibly others.

          1. Lou told a joke, but forgot to put any inflexion to it. Now everyone thinks he actually meant what he said.
          2. Lou met his best friend after 2 years of COVID. He was very happy to see him, but forgot to mention it. Now his best friend think Lou didn't miss him at all
          3. Lou expressed a true emotion but his facial expression did not change. He comes out as insincere
          4. Lou met a bunch of new people and there wasn't enough time to analyze the behavior of that group. Now he must choose between being the silent weirdo or saying something which will potentially come out as absurd, cringy, or offensive
          5. He asked me to tell the truth. I proceeded to do so. Why is he so upset by my answer?

          Edit: I can see his facial expression changed, but what does that mean?

          6 votes
          1. [5]
            kfwyre
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            The situations you identified here are common ones I see among my students with autism, which you mentioned was a possibility for you. My school does explicit social skills instruction in...
            • Exemplary

            The situations you identified here are common ones I see among my students with autism, which you mentioned was a possibility for you. My school does explicit social skills instruction in neurodiverse groupings for students with social skills needs (whether they have autism or not), and it’s hugely beneficial. We also work to normalize understanding of autism among neurotypical students, so that engagement, understanding, and validation are mutual rather than one-sided.

            If you don’t find them too “junior”, you might want to look into social skills curricula aimed at schools. These often break social skills down into easy-to-parse ideas and then give you situations on which to analyze and apply those ideas. If you’re looking for this kind of stuff, you find a lot of it with the keyword “social skills” but it’s also referred to as “pragmatics” which can help uncover more resources.

            I also know there are online social groups specifically for building social skills, often directly focused on the needs of people with autism. Seeking one of these out might be a good way to develop some of what you’re looking for, especially as a way of applying some of what you learn through your reading.

            10 votes
            1. [4]
              lou
              Link Parent
              Thanks. I don't think I ever heard of social skills training here, I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist here, with the possible exception of specialized institutions. I will look into online groups,...

              Thanks. I don't think I ever heard of social skills training here, I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist here, with the possible exception of specialized institutions. I will look into online groups, as you mention. Any idea how I might find those?

              4 votes
              1. [3]
                kfwyre
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                I did a flat search for online social skills groups and got a few hits, but most of them were aimed at kids and some of them looked suspect. I say this because not all social skills groups are...

                I did a flat search for online social skills groups and got a few hits, but most of them were aimed at kids and some of them looked suspect. I say this because not all social skills groups are created equal and don’t want you to get the impression from my first comment that they are a universal good. For many people they can stigmatizing or traumatic, especially if the group is aimed at upholding solely neurotypical norms and invalidates neurodivergent needs. If a group looks at its participants only through a lens of deficits then it is not a good group.

                It might be worth consulting autism-focused organizations or groups and asking for recommendations there. Whether or not you are on the autism spectrum, they would still likely be able to point you in the right direction.

                8 votes
                1. [2]
                  lou
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  I see. The shadow of the spectrum hovers over my life for a long time, but professional care is expensive, and at least in my region 100% targeted at children. From everything I read, I don't feel...

                  I see. The shadow of the spectrum hovers over my life for a long time, but professional care is expensive, and at least in my region 100% targeted at children.

                  From everything I read, I don't feel confident getting a diagnosis (or the confirmation I'm not autistic) from someone without an specialization on Asperger's/autism in adults. I'd literally have to go to the other side of the country to find a suitable professional and it wouldn't be cheap either!

                  I found an association in my city, but their website is entirely devoted to children. I'll call them just to check. Maybe they have a group. Thanks!

                  6 votes
                  1. kfwyre
                    (edited )
                    Link Parent
                    I hear you and sit under a similar shadow. When I was a kid there was far less widespread understanding of and information about autism, so I grew up completely apart from it as a framework. As I...

                    I hear you and sit under a similar shadow. When I was a kid there was far less widespread understanding of and information about autism, so I grew up completely apart from it as a framework. As I got older and learned more about its hallmarks, the more I realized many of them applied to me (in particular some of the sensory issues). A lot of things in my life “clicked” in hindsight when I looked at them through this lens. Often my students who are on the spectrum remind me of myself when I was their age.

                    I’m a big believer in the idea that, in general, we don’t need diagnoses to make sense of ourselves. They can be incredibly valuable as a confirmation and can put a formal name to parts of us and connect us to others with those same contours, but I also think that the lack of a label doesn’t necessarily mean those parts don’t exist. They could still be there, just not fully or explicitly identified. Of course, they could also not be there at all either. It’s not about yes vs. no but certainty vs. a gigantic possibility space.

                    That space is an awkward and expansive gray area where we see reflections of ourselves in mirrors we don’t necessarily own or have claim to, all the while wondering if it’s wrong to call them ours. I’ve long wondered whether I’m on the spectrum, or if I have ADHD. I’ve not sought out formal diagnoses for either, but self-diagnosing can feel like a form of cultural appropriation, where I’m taking something that doesn’t belong to me.

                    This is all basically a very long way of saying that I get where you’re coming from on a pretty personal level.

                    Best of luck with your search. I hope you’re able to find what you’re looking for.

                    8 votes
          2. [3]
            Gaywallet
            Link Parent
            How do you know they misinterpreted the joke? If a joke can be easily misinterpreted when only the inflection is missing, perhaps it's a questionable joke in the first place? Do you have an...
            1. How do you know they misinterpreted the joke? If a joke can be easily misinterpreted when only the inflection is missing, perhaps it's a questionable joke in the first place? Do you have an example of a joke where this has happened? Have you tried talking with people about it afterwards?
            2. How do you know that's how your friend thinks? What else happened during this meeting? I used to struggle with the idea that I wasn't letting others know how much I appreciate them, and practicing voicing my appreciation has really helped my own comfort with this. In addition, it's resulted in a lot of positive feedback, causing me to both appreciate and voice appreciation more often. You could start by writing yourself reminders, or even just recording the things you're thankful for every day and then work on incorporating them into your socialization with others.
            3. As someone who has been broken up with and called a robot, as well as an unemotional human, I can assure you that facial expression does not have to change. I've even regularly been told to smile more, or that I have a poker face at work. This is something that can make it harder to communicate, but it's definitely not something that is all or nothing - you can enhance your communication with more words, with analogies, with acts of service, actions, or anything else that can express sincerity.
            4. This is a false dichotomy. Being silent doesn't make you weird, and saying things doesn't make you absurd, cringy, or offensive. You shouldn't think of yourself in this fashion. What do you want to say and why are you afraid people will judge you for it?
            5. This last one is exceptionally tricky. Unfortunately when people ask for the truth, it's a loaded question, because some people want the truth and others actually don't, or they do but you have to phrase it in a specific way. Usually when people have a request like 'tell me the truth' one of the best responses is not to answer their question, but to figure out why they are phrasing it that way - what are they afraid or insecure about? Why must they qualify their question?
            1 vote
            1. lou
              Link Parent
              So I'll only answer where you asked for clarification. I agree with everything you say. My memory is not that good. But people do have trouble differentiating between my serious and non-serious...

              So I'll only answer where you asked for clarification. I agree with everything you say.

              How do you know they misinterpreted the joke? If a joke can be easily misinterpreted when only the inflection is missing, perhaps it's a questionable joke in the first place? Do you have an example of a joke where this has happened? Have you tried talking with people about it afterwards

              My memory is not that good. But people do have trouble differentiating between my serious and non-serious register. I'm certain that, like most people, I say inappropriate things from time to time. But that also happens with safe stuff which can't possibly pose any threat.

              How do you know that's how your friend thinks?

              I really don't. It comes as no surprise, but my best friend is a lot like me :P

              3 votes
            2. lou
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Nothing too absurd, but, in a very Asperger's like way, I usually have trouble showing enthusiasm for topics that do not interest me. So I might simply end up steamrolling everyone to talk about,...

              What do you want to say and why are you afraid people will judge you for it?

              Nothing too absurd, but, in a very Asperger's like way, I usually have trouble showing enthusiasm for topics that do not interest me. So I might simply end up steamrolling everyone to talk about, IDK, which kind of zombie is the deadliest and how I intend to prepare, or WWII tanks. I might also be overly sincere... They might be speaking about the death of CELEBRITY, and I would comment that I find it weird to care so much about someone that don't even know we exist. Or that I don't feel anything whatsoever when I look at a baby. Or a video of a panda trying to climb a tree.

              IDK, things that make me look like a weirdo or psycho.

              2 votes
      2. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. lou
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Pretty much everything. See my answer to @gaywallet

          Like are there any specific scenarios where you feel this communication issue of yours is a problem? Is it getting in the way of you finding an SO, professional/academic networking, being close with family, etc.?

          Pretty much everything. See my answer to @gaywallet