A very thorough introduction to communication structured like a blueprint, examining the very basic building blocks of communication step by step. The chapters:
1. What is communication
2. How conversations work
3. Seven ways to improve your conversations
4. The skills of enquiry
5. The skills of persuasion
6. Making a presentation
7. Putting it in writing
8. Networking: the new conversation
A short appendix of additional reading by chapter.
A very worthwhile book which presents communication in a refreshing paradigm that challenges the "transmission" model of communication:
"Communication begins, not with transmission, but with reception."
and then defines communication as:
"The process of creating shared understanding."
The chapters are short, clearly structured and to the point. I would prefer a few more examples, but this book is more about presenting information in a concise and useful way with very little clutter. It can be read in a few days, but certainly would be worth coming back to.
I found that some of the chapters left me wanting to know more about particular topics, for example, The Ladder of Inference. I would like a little more practical information on how to use it. The appendix does, in fact, give a reference for this particular topic, but I would have like some more explanation and examples available of this and several other topics - well, maybe that just means they are really interesting and relevant. However, some pieces of the blueprint feel grossly underwritten, for example under "Working out the Relationship" [Chapter 2] there are four subtopics: status, power, role and liking, which together define the territory of the conversation. However "liking" is just a few sentences and while it is said that conversations can "go wrong because we like each other a lot!" - there isn't any explanation of what this means or how to recognize and avoid it. Then the author discusses how territory fits in, noting that "many conversational rules are about asking and giving permission to enter each others territory. A conversation's success may depend on whether you give or ask clearly for such permission." A strong statement unfortunately without one piece of practical advice or example on how to do it. The topic is is closed at that point.
Another thing to mention is that the books seems to be aimed more to the topic of business communication rather than personal, intimate communication (at one point the author rather oddly defines a range of relationship in this way, "We converse differently with complete strangers than we do with close acquaintances" rather than friends or intimates, spouse, children, parents). However, most of the topics and information could be used or adapted to everyday communication with friends and family. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on enquiry, but didn't find the chapter on making a presentation or networking that useful to my purposes. Again, more of a business communication approach.
Overall I think this is an excellent book. Concise, but packed with useful information told in a clear and understandable manner. There are charts, chapter summaries and other graphic devices to enliven the text and make it easier to grasp. I think it is a very useful addition to the field, an engaging read which would provide most readers with some refreshingly new ideas and perspectives on improving their communication skills.
I feel that a few more examples sprinkled throughout the chapters would have been helpful for me. However, a lot of books are really bloated with examples while the author here chooses a more concise approach which will certainly appeal to many readers. But, I definitely feel that some of the topics need to be explored in more depth - hence 4 stars, not 5. Also, I would like to see a chapter on the differences between business and social communication, or one that touches on the subtle complexities of social and intimate communication.