The Book List: Communication and Relationships

Coaching clients often ask me for books that I would recommend on various topics, so in this post I summarize some of my favourite books when it comes to communication and relationships.

(For a lengthier list of books that have influenced me and my approach, see the page Influences and Extras. And for a great list of book recommendations from The Coaches Training Institute on coaching, leadership, and business, head here.)



Communication and Relationships

The Non-Violent Communication (NVC) series of books is exceptionally helpful for starting to recognize one’s own needs and emotions, and for learning to listen for the needs and emotions expressed by others. NVC slows one down enough to really be present in the conversation, rather than always thinking one step ahead to the point one wants to make (whether or not making that point is helpful to the relationship or the conversation!). The series has many different titles and you’re likely to find at least a few of them at your local library. Search under the author’s name, Marshall Rosenberg. And for more information, explore the Center for Non-Violent Communication‘s website, or watch Marshall Rosenberg on YouTube.

How to Be an Adult in Relationships, by David Richo, is a fantastic exploration of the patterns we bring to our intimate relationships, and how to work through some of those patterns so that we aren’t expecting our significant other to fill all of our unmet needs. It’s a book about how to grow up, both for ourselves and for the sake of those we are in relationship with. It’s highly readable, full of sample exercises and checklists, and offers lots of “ah-ha!”s for anyone willing to open up to the less attractive side of themselves — a side that always shows up in our relationships sooner or later.

Loving What Is, by Byron Katie, is one of a number of Byron Katie books that helps the reader through “The Work”, Katie’s name for a system of inquiry that illuminates our own projections and where our own work (not the work of the Other in the relationship!) remains to be done. Regularly doing “The Work” shows us how our judgments and irritations about the Other are just windows into the growth we ourselves are needing. Plus, Katie is funny. You can read more about The Work, and see video examples, on her website.

What would you add?

What books — or other resources — have you found most helpful for your learning about communication and relationships? I’d love to hear your replies in the comments.

Self-Awareness Exercise: Beginnings, Endings, Guidance, and Creativity

The last self-awareness exercise I posted, the Four-Point Check-In, invites you to check in on yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Today’s exercise uses the four cardinal directions to symbolically access what is arising, what is ending, what is guiding you, and what invites your creativity.

The exercise comes from the fantastic book How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, by David Richo. I’ve provided the exercise below not quite word-for-word, but pretty close. I highly recommend his book — from start to finish, and with every reread, I’m learning from it.

Sketch a square that represents a room, as if you are looking down at the room from above. On each side of the room, there is a window — so one window faces each of the four cardinal directions.

Imagine yourself standing in the centre of the room, and turning one by one to face each different direction.

As you turn to face the east, reflect on what is arising in your life. What are three things that are arising? Make a note of them in the east.

As you turn to face the west, write down three things that are now ending.

As you turn to face the north, write three things in your life that stabilize and guide you, as does the North Star.

As you turn to face the south, write three things in your life that evoke your spontaneity and creativity.

Picture yourself in the centre of the room, mindfully turning to each direction: looking to the east with a willingness to take hold, to face the west with a willingness to let go, to face north by staying with your spiritual/grounding practice, and to face south with enthusiasm and creativity in the invention of your life.

You may want to notice who (or what situations/contexts) helps you open those windows. Who/what shuts them?

You may want to reflect on what your stance is as you face each of these directions — how do you face each of these areas? What’s your default approach to each?

Wishing you peace with all of your endings and beginnings.


Laura McGrath is an Ottawa-based life coach and therapist who views her clients holistically, with attention to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Would you like to explore in conversation your beginnings, endings, inner guidance, and creativity? Laura is more than happy to pick up the phone and talk it over. Get in touch.