Voices carry

The library’s main stairwell evokes a ship-like feeling. In fact, on a few occasions, patrons and staff members have reenacted part of the Titanic scene in which the protagonists, Jack and Rose, stand, arms outstretched, on the bow of the boat. Beautifully designed by Hillier Architecture, the open staircase is unimpeded by sound barriers on the second and third floors, and even amplifies the voices of patrons as they walk up or down. Staff can often overhear snippets of voices and conversations while working at the public service desks.

One afternoon not long ago, I overheard half of a conversation with a distressed child, who sounded about five years old.

“You were not nice to me. I want you to be nice to me. You made me cry. You have to say, ‘Sorry, I love you.’”

The interaction continued for several minutes, as the child repeated their request. While I didn’t hear the other side of the conversation, it was clear that this young child already knew how to articulate how they were feeling, without any reservations. Many adults haven’t yet mastered this valuable skill set, in their personal or their professional lives. Imagine what the world might be like if we could all communicate our feelings so clearly.

Developing these skills has been the subject of hundreds (probably thousands) of books over the decades. When it comes to communication between adults and youth, there are many items to browse on the library’s shelves, including the work of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (“How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen,”  and “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen – & Listen So Teens Will Talk“), as well as Wendy Mogel’s “Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Listen.” 

If you’re interested in exploring better communication with your romantic partner, you may want to return to an old staple. A recent article in The Guardian, Can Knowing Your Love Language Transform Your Relationship?  discusses the re-emergence of Gary Chapman’s 1992 classic book, “The Five Love Languages,” which has, apparently, become a hit on TikTok.

Looking to improve your work-life communication? “Crucial Conversations,” “Radical Candor,” and “Dare to Lead,” are all good bets.

And, if you’re interested in an overall theory of fostering better connections through language, Marshall Rosenberg’s “Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situation” is a good start.

Are there other books you’d recommend? We encourage you to share your voice with us. We would love to hear it.

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