"Effective communication literally dies because people would rather die, it seems, than express themselves assertively."

Books on effective communication skills abound. This one is refreshingly different because it integrates Nielsen’s work with recovery support group programs, explores the “relationship between extremely low self-esteem and communication skills,” and emphasizes being assertive. The expected charts, worksheets, questionnaires, and glossaries of industry jargon cover classic communication topics, such as active listening, body language, nonverbal cues, and how to give and receive feedback. The brilliance lies in the clear and insightful self-assessment exercises on how to separate feelings from self-talk, be assertive and not aggressive, handle pressure, increase self-awareness, and practice self-aware, active listening and feedback.

Nielsen is a pastor, a recovered alcoholic and drug addict, and an experienced facilitator of recovery programs with a gift for rendering the complex simple. Practical examples sift the murk of cloudy communication, such as how does one feel, think, and react when hearing a nearby siren, receiving a generous gift, being yelled at by the boss or called stupid, getting interrupted, or experiencing traffic delays? Incisive self-assessments and straightforward definitions of key concepts (such as passive-aggressive vs. assertive behaviors) guide the reader through the fog toward healthy self-talk, better dialogue with others, improved listening skills, and collaborative interactions. For instance, to improve listening skills, one can observe an order-taker at a fast-food chain, where profit depends on accurately hearing what the customer wants.

Nielsen takes tried and true communications techniques and applies a loving touch, which amplifies self-assessment of personality quirks, baggage, and unhealthy self-talk as well as ways to cope with them. His skill in prying open personal obstacles to successful communication shines. An appendix and entertaining line drawings foster comprehension, as do clear chapter goals, objectives, and summaries.

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