I read Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg on May 14, 2024

Over time, I have become increasingly wary of popular “self-help” books, but I gave this one a try because I remember liking Duhigg’s seminal book, The Power of Habit. I feel a small sense of affinity towards Duhigg because I think that James Clear’s even more famous habit book, Atomic Habits, was sort of a copy of Duhigg’s.

Although I disagree with the premise that some people are so-called “supercommunicators” and others are not (I’m more inclined to believe that we are all able to communicate well, some just more easily and more of the time than others), I’m glad I read this book. I am in agreement with Duhiggg that we can all intentionally become better communicators. On my quest to boost my EQ, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People feels like level 1 and Supercommunicators is level 2.

I recently read 1984 and George Orwell uses the character, Winston Smith, to express that sometimes the best books sometimes verbalize our intuition.

“The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”

Supercommunicators is like this, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing.

Here are my notes on the book:

The Three Types of Conversations

Rule 1: Pay attention to what kind of conversation is occurring.

Duhigg writes about three different types of conversations (we often shift between these in a single dialogue):

  1. What’s this really about? (practical, decision-making conversations)
  2. How do we feel? (emotional conversations)
  3. Who are we? (social conversations)

Often, the worst conversations are those when people are not having the same type of conversation at the same. People don’t feel like they are being heard or understood when this happens.

One question you can ask yourself to figure out which type of conversation you may be having is, “Does this person want to be helped, hugged, or heard?”

The What’s This Really About? Conversation

Rule 2: Share you goals, and ask what others are seeking

The How Do We Feel? Conversation

Rule 3: Ask about others’ feelings and share you own

The Who Are We? Conversation

Rule 4: Explore if identities are important to this discussion.

I think that “Chapter 7: How Do We Make the Hardest Conversations Safer?” was the most impactful part of the book. Duhigg could have written a decent book on having conversations if he stopped writing after telling people to be emotionally vulnerable, listen well, and ask good questions, but he does something significant by providing advice for the most charged conversations. By establishing guidelines for dialogue, understanding everyone’s goals, and anticipating areas of friction, we can better find mutual understanding in conversations on topics that normally become heated.


The afterword is really worth reading. We learn about how the Harvard Study of Adult Development found that having good relationships is the factor with the strongest ties to physical health, mental health, and longevity.

“Across the decades and surveys, similar findings emerged again and again: The happiest participants called others regularly, made lunch and dinner dates, sent notes to friends saying they were proud of them, or wanted to help them shoulder sad news. Most of all, happy participants engaged in many, many conversations over the years that brought them closer to others.”

“‘The most important influence, by far, on a flourishing life is love.’ Not romantic love, but, rather, the kinds of deep connections we form with our families, friends, and coworkers, as well as neighbors and people from our community. ‘Love early in life facilitates not only love later on, but also the other trappings of success, such as prestige and even high income. It also encourages the development of coping styles that facilitate intimacy, as opposed to ones that discourage it.’”

My biggest critique would be for Duhigg to build ethos earlier (and more strongly). I think that the benefits of being a better communicator are self-evident, but it’s a little unclear to the reader why we should listen to Duhigg’s advice specifically. Despite this, I very much want to intentionally try to be a more “super” communicator.