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

Improve your personal and professional relationships instantly with this timeless guide to communication, listening skills, body language, and conflict resolution.

A wall of silent resentment shuts you off from someone you love….You listen to an argument in which neither party seems to hear the other….Your mind drifts to other matters when people talk to you….

People Skills is a communication-skills handbook that can help you eliminate these and other communication problems. Author Robert Bolton describes the twelve most common communication barriers, showing how these “roadblocks” damage relationships by increasing defensiveness, aggressiveness, or dependency. He explains how to acquire the ability to listen, assert yourself, resolve conflicts, and work out problems with others. These are skills that will help you communicate calmly, even in stressful emotionally charged situations.

People Skills will show you:

· How to get your needs met using simple assertion techniques

· How body language often speaks louder than words

· How to use silence as a valuable communication tool

· How to de-escalate family disputes, lovers’ quarrels, and other heated arguments

Both thought-provoking and practical, People Skills is filled with workable ideas that you can use to improve your communication in meaningful ways, every day.


  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 6, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067162248X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671622480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
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6 thoughts on “People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts”

  1. I have gone through the other reviews and I disagree with the criticism a few of them show. I have so far read over 30 books on people-communications skills and relationships, and I believe this is one of the best. It is unique in its approach, ethical, very easy to read and, more importantly, it works. It absolutely works. I was pleasantly surprised for the results when applying the techniques. It is one of those books you read and re-read. Interacting with others successfully is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding aspects of life. I honestly think this book, if taken seriously, can dramatically improve that interaction. I have only endorsed five books in (Being an avid reader, I have bought and read about 120 during the last three years), and this is one of them.

  2. “People Skills” is a primer on interacting with others. Bolton’s premise is that our communication patterns are inherently faulty and he urges the reader adopt his framework to remedy. He presents – in order – listening skills, assertion skills, conflict-resolution skills, and collaborative problem solving skills, with each building upon the others. He blends keen insight into human nature, concepts of psychology and basic Judeo-Christian values into what appears to be a very effective methodology. The skills seem obvious, but in practice are rarely used, and in fact are rather uncomfortable when trying to start using.
    I found Bolton’s framework very valuable and thus far see its application can profoundly improve my own people skills in both a business and parental setting. Unfortunately, like most books of this type, the text is extremely verbose. Bolton possesses a style that is much less dry and wordy than many of his peers – in fact, I find it difficult to finish most of these types of books – but the ideas plus examples could have been distilled down to one-half the length of the 300 pages. The text is also very well referenced and footnoted, but – as a lay reader – I think the constant crediting other psychologists and philosophers confuse and muddy the message. This could be a book that one could return to periodically to refresh their skills, but its length will prevent the less diligent. I found myself taking detailed notes on each chapter for later referral; while a testament to the material, I wish the author had made it easier to digest.

  3. Most books give you 2-3 really good nuggets of insight, hidden in a dry prairie of “heard-it-all-before.” Such is the case with People Skills. Most of the content is obvious – have a pleasant demeanor when listening, reflect what you’ve heard, and so on. Not very insightful.

    However I did walk away with a few insights. For instance, as you’re reading this review, you may be thinking “Do I agree with this reviewer?” That’s the first barrier to effective communication. We all have biases, we all filter what we hear to fit our biases, and we need to learn to turn off that filter – at least momentarily – and truly listen to what others are saying, without judging it too quickly. That insight alone made this book a worthwhile read.

    There are other insights, supported by interesting research, especially in the early parts of the book. Later parts of the book begin to feel cumbersome, especially the entire section on negotiating conflict, which is based on a multi-step process that can easily be capsized if the person you’re confronting is uncooperative.

    Overall – good book, a couple good insights, but over-long and toward the end becomes less practical.

  4. I have more books than I can count on all of my appendages regarding communication & relationships. I use them all, but this one book has pulled it all togther for me showing me that my problem really boils down to my not being ‘assertive.’ I grew up in a religous family and was taught that I must always take care of others before myself…that anger was bad, etc. I now ‘see’ it clearly for what it is and health is now coming back to my being. I’ve purchased two of these books and use one to loan out to others. If I thought it would do any good, I’d get one for each member of my family, but the saying holds true, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” Too bad.

  5. If the skills described in the book were truly applied in life, the world would be a much better place to live! What amazes me the most, is the author’s ability to convey techniques as to how to handle difficult people and manage difficult situations: no manipulations are implied; only an earnest approach to ascertain the other person’s feelings in order to overcome differencies and difficulties while establishing a positive relationship.

  6. Bolton does a good job of teaching communication strategies. He identifies “high risk” responses — words that put up barriers between people and lead to resentment and anger. He also discusses the art of reflective listening, reading body language, and, finally, assertiveness. He correctly states that being assertive will, on occasion, bring you into conflict with others. The book instructs you on how to deftly handle conflict and defensiveness. This is where the tough skills of listening and communicating come into play.
    Bolton’s writing style is steady and clear, but not especially lively. That makes the book somewhat of a chore to read, despite the good information contained therein. I would give it 5 stars for content alone, but 3 stars for presentation. Odd, in fact, that a book on communication fails to maintain an interesting tone.

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