What We’re Reading
At the Center for Management Communication, we’re often asked for recommendations about the best resources on communication. We have some suggestions that have aged gracefully and remain evergreen, regardless of when these titles first appeared. And we also have specific books that address particular challenges our students frequently struggle with.
Our current recommendations include:
Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New York: Penguin, 2009.
In Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein point out consumers’ vulnerabilities to changing patterns of consumption and of general decision-making, merely when designers—whom the authors dub “choice architects”—frame our choices in distinctive ways. These choice architects can enable consumers to make better decisions by recognizing the methods with which humans make decisions, automatic and reflective, the two systems of thinking also covered by Daniel Kahneman’s recent Thinking, Fast and Slow. Good choice architects use nudges to urge consumers toward making sound decisions to counter our irrational biases, avoid coercion, and improve our status quo. Drawing off work by Kahneman, Robert Cialdini, and researchers of organizational behavior, Thaler and Sunstein provide striking examples of the ways in which anchoring and availability biases, as well as risk aversion, may nudge our decisions in the right—or decidedly wrong—directions.
Michael Suk-Young Chwe, Jane Austen, Game Theorist, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.
If you’ve never quite thought of the novels of Jane Austen in conjunction with game theory—or you’ve avoided game theory entirely because you don’t believe your quantitative skills are up to the challenge, think again. Chwe’s book, a favorite with many of our MBAs, sheds light on the ways in which strategic thinking shapes our decision-making and in our handling of our interactions with others. Strikingly, Chwe sees Austen’s work as anticipating game theory by hundreds of years, framing game theory as not merely mathematical or the province of the military-industrial complex but also as a means of understanding human behavior. Using each of Austen’s novels, Chwe explores the interplay between social norms, our concepts of ourselves and others, and the ways in which our preferences, actions, and even cluelessness can shape our communication, decision-making, and negotiations.
Carol Kinsey Goman, The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work. Seattle: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008.
Goman’s work offers an easy-to-read guide to how to sit during job interviews, how to manage negotiations with clients and superiors, and how to understand the emotions others believe they are repressing. Although first impressions may not always be accurate, you can improve your ability to read someone’s body language by filtering your impressions through the five C’s: context, clusters, congruence, consistency, and culture. Bolstered by clinical studies and Goman’s own anecdotes from consulting, Goman’s Nonverbal Advantage shows readers not only how to recognize attitudes through nonverbal signs but how to also use nonverbal signs to counter resistance and dominance during meetings.
Michael Argyle, Bodily Communication, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Argyle’s work might seem hopelessly academic to readers seeking a quick and dirty guide to what an elevated nostril or a power hand-shake really mean. Nevertheless, from an academic point of view, his work really is all-encompassing, since he touches on Edward Hall’s proxemics (distances between individuals), cultural contexts, and their impacts on non-verbal communication (NVC), as well as on the role cultural strictures play on the display of NVC. Moreover, Argyle’s work is foundational, staking out territory for the study of NVC as a formal, academic subject. Most usefully, Argyle focuses on several topics omitted by more populist writers on NVC, including ritual, vocalizations, charisma, and the physiology of expression.