Book Review – People Skills by Robert Bolton Ph.D.

People Skills, by Dr Robert Bolton, is a book about enhancing one’s ability to communicate with others (in areas where issues may arise). The book is essentially divided into Listening, Asserting, and Conflict Management. The processes for communicating in these ways more effectively than is usually done are listed, and then discussed in depth.

People Skills

While the book and its author are often involved in work environments, I’d say it is much more relevant in personal situations. The skills in the book take a personal approach to problem solving, and this can be hard to execute, or not applicable, in work situations, or with acquaintances. That doesn’t mean the book wouldn’t apply in a business scenario, it just is less likely to apply, and would need personal practice before being effective.

One of the main things the book tries to do is to truly get the intended message across. When one is listening, one should try, in their own words, to figure out what the other is feeling. When one is asserting, one should make their feelings known as unambiguously as possible, etc. After this is done, the book goes about teaching various ways to solve the problems people are discussing. While the author obviously prefers his methods of resolution he does say that other methods do have their place. Self-determination is stressed when listening, and collaboration is stressed in other scenarios. All of the information is presented in a logical format and would logically work in most scenarios. I haven’t fully implemented the book, but from what I have implemented, I can say it mostly works.

I did, at one point, read someone’s take on the book. They said that it didn’t help at all in a workplace where people are continually jockeying for positions and favor etc. And that is correct, but the book discourages that behavior in the workplace environment altogether, so if that is the type of assertion skills one would like to develop, this book isn’t the one.

But I do have criticisms myself. In my reading the book seemed far too long-winded. What seemed to be the same material was gone over and over again. And getting through the very end of the book was quite a slog, even with the last few chapters on conflict resolution being as short as they were. It seems to me the book could be condensed to half its length, and, if one pays attention when reading, have the same benefit. The dialogue the author provides as examples is also wooden. He himself mentions that some say his methods lack the “regular” speech structure his critics are used to. Adapting his structure isn’t a problem, but reading in the book quotes that were supposedly spoken by other people it seems as if the people he talks to are robots. The writing is dry both in his anecdotes and information.

It’s a good book overall, and it can help with one’s communication. If you’re looking for a quick, concise book to do that though, I’d look elsewhere. Improving communication is important in many cases, and this book is good at helping. But that doesn’t come without caveats. It won’t make you work toward better communicating, and it isn’t the most enjoyable read. Still, I’d put it on a required reading list if I was in charge of teaching social skills.

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