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Book Review: No Hard Feelings

I read. A lot. For years, I’ve reviewed and posted thoughts about my monthly book haul on my other blog, but lately I’ve found myself reading more and more tech/career books. They’ve been blowing my mind in so many ways - whether through lightbulb moments, outrage and anger about behavior in the industry, or excitement that I get to learn new things to create cool stuff, I thought it might be nice to catalog some of those book reviews here on as well for anyone who might be looking for some new material!

This week I finished No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy. If you’re just here looking for a tl;dr review, here it is:

I loved this book

No Hard Feelings is a wickedly funny illustrated guide to unrepressing your emotions at work, finding constructive channels even for jealousy and anxiety, demystifying digital interactions and coworker communication styles, and ultimately allowing you to bring your best self to work.

Mollie and Liz are long-time best friends who both work in tech, but their advice can be applied to any industry. They break out seven key areas where workers might feel they need to suppress their emotions or circumstances — or maybe that’s me projecting, because that is absolutely something I do at work.

In their chapters on Health, Motivation, Decision Making, Teams, Communication, Culture, and Leadership, they provide examples, case studies, research, and actionable takeaways for employees, managers, and executives to apply to make their workplace psychologically safe, inclusive, and more open and inclusive.

Since I checked this book out from the library, I couldn’t do as I normally do and highlight, circle, and write in the margins of particularly resonant passages. Instead, I took pictures on my phone so I could note them later - and I think I took pictures of about 70% of the book. It helps a lot that it’s illustrated with super cute examples, like this:

Illustrated image of Big Bird and a blue Oscar. Big Bird is asking Oscar “Ok before you answer, ask yourself if your grouchiness is relevant or irrelevant”

I’m a person who has worked very hard for a very long time to separate emotions from the work version of myself - to some extent, this is because the music industry is cutthroat, and after ten years in it, I learned that unless you have a heart of stone, people will see and exploit any chinks in your armor. This also meant that I expected everyone around me to behave the same way - which didn’t always happen. (Nor should it!) I felt particularly attacked by an illustration in the book that pictures a blowfish trying to convince his friends and co-workers that he’s “fine” — like, who snuck this picture of me, authors??

Picture of the book No Hard Feelings on the floor under a Monstera deliciosa plant

I’ve spent the last few months really trying to focus on communication and intrapersonal interactions (aside from just making silly jokes or commentary) so this was a very timely read for me. Liz and Mollie sum up each chapter’s key takeaways both at the end of the chapter as well as at the end of the book, so they’re easily collated and accessible. On top of all the research, they also put together some assessments that help you understand your emotions and the way you communicate them. These are found both in the book, as well as on their website.

The book also includes an extensive bibliography and suggested further reading and talks that I really look forward to digging into as well.

I 100% recommend this book to anyone - it’s a quick read, has practical tips that can be applied right away, and helps bring into focus some of those “soft skills” that developers and engineers are often stereotyped as lacking.

Have you read this book? How do you feel about showing emotions at work?

Top comments (4)

j_mplourde profile image
Jean-Michel Plourde

Damn! That's a lot of book. I've set a 20 books goal for this year and I'm 5 books short. Anyway, great review of the book, I'm tempted to add it to the queue.

These days, I mostly read non-tech book and more stuff about self development.

rixcy profile image
Rick Booth

This sounds pretty interesting. I'm guilty for not reading as much as I probably should and this sounds like the kind of thing I could benefit so might see if I can get my hands on a copy :)

I find myself bottling up emotions due to not wanting to offend people and not wanting to come across as being too negative, but it means I often don't express fully what's going on and only end up feeling guilty afterwards for not saying anything, feels like I can't win sometimes!

flrnd profile image
Florian Rand

Definitely want to read the book after your review. It's an interesting topic that I'm keen to deep in. I'm used to freely talks and constructive criticism and since I'm more into development I found that what worked for me in the past (among designers) is not working at all with developers. A lot of hot reactions 🤔. So this is going to be an interesting read for sure!

Thanks for sharing it!

voidjuneau profile image
Juneau Lim

I feel so lucky there’re kindle version of this book. Love it. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks fo much for recommendation!