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10 books that’ll sharpen any designer’s social skills

Igor Ovsyannykov's Layout avatar

You’ve seen the type: that person who reads books all the time, face hidden behind the cover, digging through the pages without any care in the world. Even at work, there’s likely a pile of books on their desk

Sound familiar?

A voracious reader is sometimes chastised for what looks like antisocial behavior. Reading books, however – particularly fiction – can strengthen a person’s social skills and heighten their empathy toward other people (two qualities that every successful designer needs).

Books enable you to better understand human nature. And reading, though somewhat a solitary act, is actually perceived as a human interaction exercise. Reading can even sharpen and develop your social brain, allowing you to be better equipped to collaborate and form relationships in real life. Still not convinced? Let’s dive into how reading can sharpen your social skills and make you a better designer.

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How reading can improve your social and career skills

Reading books has a slew of benefits. But more than ever, the activity can improve both your social and career skills. This is why reading is an all-too-important activity that everyone – from beginners to seasoned designers –should participate in.

Apart from aiding you to be a well-rounded person, here are some other benefits of reading in relation to improving your social and career skills.

Reading helps you catch up on the ins and outs of social events

For example, if you’ve attended only a handful of networking events and feel totally in the dark on how to mingle, reading is a quick way to fix this situation. The activity helps you get caught up with the essentials and particulars of scenarios that you may not have much experience with.

You may not necessarily want to attend those events all the time, but you also don’t want to be completely clueless about them either. Through books, you can gain some insight into social etiquette that will help you when you network in real life.

Reading helps you understand and connect with people better

If it’s difficult for you to relate to a certain type of person (especially a certain type of client), books can help you figure them out. Read books about their distinct personality or something that is written from their perspective. This enables you to understand what makes them tick and learn the best way to connect with them.

Reading gives you life experiences

Obviously, you learn a lot by doing things firsthand. But still, other information and behavior can be acquired through books. If you’re at a career crossroad, read books about other people’s struggles and triumphs to succeed. Through this, you’ll have the feel of the same trial-and-error experience and gain something from it – hopefully, a thing or two that can help you ease your predicament.

When you read a lot, you’re able to flesh out your beliefs and ideas about life. Depending on the author’s perceptions, you may find that it helps solidify what you already believed, or it may present a new viewpoint that you hadn’t considered. Either way, it’s incredibly beneficial and can certainly help you make some tough decisions, such as career moves.

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The books you need to read

The short version: read all kinds of books. The first rule in reading is to NOT be too picky. If you enjoy a book that isn’t quite popular, then who cares? A seemingly pointless book can still indirectly educate you about something.

Another rule is to devote time on subjects you’re not familiar with, but think can help in whichever capacity you need. Like if you want to improve your design techniques, don’t shy away from books about business. You may learn something that you can apply to your clients to learn more about them and in turn, further inform your design decisions.

Overall, just try to tap into as many topics as possible. The more information you have in your head about anything and everything under the sun, the better. You never know what fun fact you’ll be able to pull out during your next networking event!

The importance of mixing it up

A common problem is that people find a specific topic they really enjoy and then forget to add some variety to their bookshelf. For example, let’s say you get really into books about design history. You may feel that the only books worth your while are those that directly talk about typography or design styles. It’s important to remember, however, that learning about different topics can also teach you something about design.

The great thing about books is that you can read about a particular topic and still end up gaining valuable lessons on a very different or even contrasting subject. You may read a book about running and acquire insights into human interaction in the end. Or a book about war may teach you something about love. You can’t just dismiss books that seem too out there for your taste or need. Every piece of reading material has the chance to leave a lasting impression on you.

Books to help you improve your social and career skills

Every book has the power to teach you about something in life. The genre doesn’t really matter because you’ll undoubtedly gain a thing or two. But if you want to focus on honing in your social and career skills, here’s a list of 10 books that can help you reach your goal.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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This is a classic read for a reason. It’s packed with well-meaning tips on how to connect with other people and perhaps be a driving force in their lives. It’s a critical read for any designer trying to find more clients.

What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro

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Thanks to its author, a former FBI agent, this is the go-to book if you want to learn how to read people. Body language can tell you a lot about a person, so understanding the emotion of others in a social or professional gathering can be incredibly advantageous when trying to understand what your clients are thinking.

People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts by Robert Bolton

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This is probably one of the most recommended books about social skills. It’s loaded with valuable tips to improve how you communicate with others, and it also tackles how silence is a powerful conversation force and listening to others is more than just a courtesy. Seriously, your clients will thank you for the skills this book will teach you.

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

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This reading material used scientific studies to dissect what makes people happy. It also translates its findings into actionable steps that anyone can follow. It’s basically a study of happiness and how improving yourself from within is the best way to relate to other people.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

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The authors of this book make it a point to help readers learn how to take advantage of big conversations, and through that, get ahead in life. The book provides ideas and tips on how you can start a conversation with anyone about anything under the sun.

How to Make People Like You in 90 Second or Less by Nicholas Boothman

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This self-help book stresses the importance of first impressions. They do matter, and they can really make or break your career. This book will help you master first impressions and seal the deal with any new client that comes your way.

Click: Ten Truths for Building Extraordinary Relationships by George Fraser

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This book talks about how connecting with others is the best way to network. More than its value to business, networking is building and taking special relationships to the next level. The book provides ten tips to master the art of networking, so you’ll definitely want to check it out before attending your next design conference.

Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne

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This classic book is the go-to guide for individuals who want to learn how to unmask the games people play during social interactions. As the title implies, it analyzes how people in a social situation converse, transact, and ultimately, interact with each other.

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner

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Working with some tricky clients? This updated bestseller helps to arm yourself with social skills to deal with whiners, nitpickers, and all around negative individuals. The new version includes ways to handle crass and unscrupulous people brought by the digital world.

Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself by Florence Littauer

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This book talks about your personality – how to better understand yourself so you can present “you” to other people. And as a designer, presenting your personal brand is critical. It also tackles the different personalities you see and the best ways to deal with them.

Reading gives you a lot more information than just to acquire or refine your social skills. As bookworms would attest, “reading is life.” What are some of your other favorite books for boosting your design business and improving social skills?

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