Book review: Soft is the New Hard by Leah Mether
Great books on effective communication are rare! But Soft is the New Hard by Leah Mether does the genre justice by covering communication as an essential soft skill in a wholesome manner.
Detailed and practical – it has the right balance between theory and application. This book is a masterclass and a coach rolled into one. You understand each concept and follow up by applying the long list of tips at the end of each chapter.
In short, the book follows a 5 C model of effective communication. And while reading the book, I realised that these steps can make us better communicators in both – our professional and personal life.
About the author
Leah Mether, Director of Methmac Communications, is a trainer, keynote speaker, coach and facilitator across Australia teaching soft skills for success. You can learn more about her and the programs she offers here.
Why you should read this book
- To find out your own communication style
- To learn how taking responsibility for your communication makes you a better communicator
- To become an effective communicator, especially in difficult situations
- The 10-step feedback process at the end is a ready script if you find it hard to give feedback
- The book not just talks about what to do but also how to do it- in great detail
- The case studies help you see the concepts in action
- If you want to become a more effective communicator as a leader, or even a prospective one, this book is a must read.
Here are some highlights from the book
The inside-out approach
It’s not about the other person. It’s about you
This was a mindset moment for me even though I have been training in communication for many years!
Just at chapter 3 and I found a great tip to deal with some of my communication issues. We need to take the responsibility of how we communicate, not blame the others.
I realised that if I was over-reacting in some of my personal situations- it was on me. And I could just change that myself rather than expecting others to change! Phew! My life’s been so much better since then!
Shifting our mindset from “others” to “us” is a great starting point in improving how we communicate. Once you hold on to this, you will see how all the other steps in the book fall into place.
Understanding your own communication style
There’s a whole chapter on understanding different communication styles with a quiz at the end. You can answer some simple questions and understand how you communicate.
Self awareness is the cornerstone of being an emotionally intelligent person. This is critical if you want to be an effective communicator and especially, an effective leader.
Knowing your own style will help you adjust from there and/or give you a better understanding of how others around you communicate.
The 5 Cs of effective communication
While I mostly focus on the mechanics of better communication – voice modulation, body language, structure etc, this book goes 4 layers deep before it gets to the actual communication.
And that’s what makes this book unique.
The 5 Cs are steps that lead up to the effective delivery of your message.
Effective communication begins with choice – taking personal responsibility of how you communicate. Whether you choose to blow your lid or stay calm – it’s all up to you!
This is an important step because it makes you conscious of how you will communicate with especially under pressure.
Watch out for the line of choice discussed in the book which helps you understand how to take personal responsibility for your communication.
This is a hard one – as I realised when I started applying the inside-out approach.
“Control is about being able to regulate your response and communicate your emotions in a deliberate and intentional way”
Even though we know that we can choose our reactions, it isn’t really easy to do that when something rattles you.
I did fail many times but then learning is a process! And coming back to the basic point – I choose and control how I react – has made a huge difference.
Control is essential especially during difficult conversations. Getting short tempered or losing cool isn’t exactly helpful in such situations.
Follow the tips at the end of this chapter and you will find it easier to control your responses!
After choice and control – which are decisions we need to make for ourselves, consideration gets us to step into others’ shoes.
To communicate effectively with any one,
You must consider the best way to go about it and tailor your response to suit
Who are you going to talk to and what is the best way to do that with them?
What’s the outcome you are looking for and what’s the best form of communication that will get you there?
At the end of this chapter, watch out for the questions you can ask to make sure you consider your audience and your response from all the angles.
This one is specifically true of difficult situations – where you need to stand up for yourself, speak up, be assertive or try a conversation that failed the last time.
These are classic situations where we are most likely to lose our nerve. Choosing to be silent when you shouldn’t be not only undermines your authority but loses respect for you.
I love the practical tips at the end of this chapter. They are great pointers to help us become more courageous in our communication. If you hate conflicts and would rather avoid them, this one is for you!
This step ties in all the other steps together.
You have made a choice of how you’ll communicate, you have your emotions under control, you’ve considered the recipients of your communication, mustered the courage to go ahead with whatever you want to say – you are ready to communicate now.
Most courses focus on the final product without working on the steps that go before that.
And as I said, this is the best part of this book. It really made me sit up and take notice of how much deeper the process of effective communication goes!
Just like the other chapters, this one doesn’t disappoint either. It has useful and practical tips on how to communicate better keeping all the steps in mind.
If becoming effective in communication is one of your goals for 2021, this book is for you.
The bad news is that the book is highly priced in both, the e-book and hard copy. I will confess that I did have second thoughts about spending that amount when most books disappoint (in my experience)
But I am so glad that I did!
And I can assure you that if you really want to become a better communicator, a strong leader and a confident communicator in difficult situations, this investment is definitely worth making!