Written and Produced
by Andy Bradbury
(author of "Develop Your NLP Skills", "Successful Presentation Skills", etc.)

Reviews: Part 9  

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The Title
Name(s) of the Author(s)
ISBN Number [this will be for the paperback version except where the number ends with (Hb)]

An ABC of NLP : A Guide Through the NLP Territory
Sinclair and Bray / Cartoons by ALB
At first glance this is an impressive piece of work.  Despite being self-published, the design and execution of the cover is well abreast of the best professional standards, and the frequent cartoons supporting the text are both excellently drawn and, above all, relevant.
Unfortunately that's where the praise has to end.

I have no idea what the first edition looked like, but I'm quite clear that this "Revised Expanded Edition" really isn't worth the trouble taken to print it.  To be quite blunt, the text suffers from all of the many disadvantages of self-publishing, including:

  • Significant spelling mistakes - like calling the author of The Spirit of NLP "Michael L. Head" (it should have been L. Michael Hall), and "Meta Programme" instead of "Meta Program"
  • Missing cross references - There are references to topics such as "Relational Operator", "R-Operator", "Imprint", "Mental Aptitude Patterning", etc. which simply don't exist.  Other references are to topics which do exist, but not under the title in the cross reference
  • Inadequate coverage - How do you discuss "Language" and "Semantics" without a single reference to Alfred Korzybski or General Semantics?  How do you feature multiple references to George Miller's "7 pieces of information ± 2" and never explain what a "bit" is, or that "chunk size" is a variable quantity related to the context?
    And what about topics like "nested loops", "artfully vague language", "closure"?  Some accurate definitions of the main meta programs would have been useful.  And are there really only three NLP presuppositions?
  • Nonsense text - like:
    "... only by conscious effort and repetition can such material be retained indefinitely in short term memory"
    (wrong on both counts), not to mention the whole of the confused discussion of meta programs typified by the statement that:
    "There are nine components to the meta programme:"
  • Inconsistency - On page 22 we are told that breathing "is a more reliable pointer to the sensory system than, for example, eye movements ...".  Yet on pages 22-23 almost the whole of the discussion of Calibration is based on ... Eye Movements!
  • Unnecessary repetition - like multiple explanations of the anchoring process and of George Miller's research (see above)
  • Use of jargon to explain jargon - for example:
    A circular process where two or more people pair each others unconscious, non-verbal responses and associate observable behaviour with their specific internal responses."
    Not exactly rocket science, but imagine a newcomer to NLP trying to make sense of this 'explanation'.
  • Plain errors of fact, such as:
    To be dissociated ..."
    Are the authors seriously suggesting that people who are 'through time' cannot be 'associated', or that people who are 'in time' cannot be 'dissociated'?  And how about:
    ... When used to describe a person, it has the same meaning as blamer [in the Satir sense]"
    I don't think so!

Along with all the errors there is undoubtedly some useful information.  But is that really good enough in a book that the authors claim is "a work of reference written in everyday language which would help [the reader's] comprehension of the NLP books they were reading or courses they were taking" (page 6)?
In the final analysis, this book would be expensive at any price, because:

  • If you know enough to sort the wheat from the chaff then you already know enough not to need this book;
  • If you can't tell which is which then these definitions are more likely to be a hinderance than a help.

Definitely not recommended.

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The New Peoplemaking
Virginia Satir
Virginia Satir's ideas were key elements in the development of NLP.  This book is probably the best introduction to those ideas in their most mature form.

Those who have read Satir's other key work - Conjoint Family Therapy, a remarkably dry and pedestrian text - may be wary of letting themselves in for more of the same.  Fear not!  The New Peoplemaking is as different from the earlier book as poached salmon is different from fish fingers.

Originally published in 1972 as Peoplemaking (which itself sold 700,000 copies), The New Peoplemaking was released in 1988, an updated, revised and expanded version of the earlier book.
On the face of it, Satir was simply writing a book about parenting:

"The family is the context in which a person ... develops.  And the adults in charge are the peoplemakers."
(Italics as in the original)
What it serves to do, for the perceptive reader, goes far beyond this simple description, however:
"I have learned from my work, and learning opens up new possibilities and new directions for discovery.  It is now clear to me that the family is a microcosm of the world.  To understand the world, we can study the family: issues such as power, intimacy, autonomy, trust and communication skills are vital parts underlying how we live in the world."

Read this book because of the light it throws on the development of NLP.
Read this book because it offers a penetrating yet empathetic study of the very foundations of modern society.
Read the book because it may help you to develop your parenting skills.
Read the book because it may give you better understanding of yourself.
Read the book for any reason you like - just as long as you read it.
Very highly recommended * * * * * * *

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The Spirit of NLP
L Michael Hall
.This review applies specifically to the 2nd edition of this book, published in 2000.

When I reviewed the first edition of this book I made it plain that I regarded it as a very poor contribution to any NLP library.  I wrote, for example:

To be quite blunt, this book is so badly written (and edited, if it was edited) that I originally read the first few pages and put it back at the bottom of the pile.  The book is awash with typos, ungrammatical sentences (some of which may haver been deliberate - designed to create subliminal effects - but how could you tell), and what seems to be sheer carelessness.

When this new edition was in preparation I was informed that the criticisms I had made - not to mention comments of a similar nature by other reviewers - had been duly noted, that the text had been substantially re-written, and that the E-Prime writing style had been dropped.  Well, it's certainly true that the layout has improved, and many of the typos have been dealt with.  But not to put too fine a point on it, the quality of the writing is as bad as it ever was,

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two texts centers around the claim, on the back cover that::

"It also includes significant contributions from other master trainers, including Eric Robbie, Wyatt Woodsmall, Tad James, Christina Hall and the late Will McDonald."

In the previous edition this claim appeared in more modest form on a stuck-in label under the dedication to Richard Bandler with the heading "Additional Credits".  It simply said "... the other trainers who contributed to this work include:" and listed Eric Robbie, Tad James et al.
Now, I don't know about you, but when I see a claim like that I expect to find that the book includes sections written by the people concerned.  Well not in this book it doesn't.  What it actually means is that most of the text is now labelled as being "derived from" someone else.  Most chapter titles now carry a substatement such as:

Chapter Seven The Wild and Wonderful World of Submodalities [Most of the following came from a presentation by Eric Robbie.  He now disclaims this chapter.  See his article on this in the Journal of International NLP, 1987]
Italics added to indicate what Hall means by "contribution". 

In other words, this is NOT a "contribution" by Eric Robbie, in the conventional sense.  It is, in fact, Hall's version of what he thinks Robbie said!  Moreover, since the first edition of The Spirit of NLP wasn't published until 1996, Hall is admitting here to reviving material rejected by it's original author nearly a decade earlier.  I wonder what reason Hall would have for doing that?
Could it have anything to do with Robbie's comment to an audience at an ANLP conference some years ago, that he didn't believe that Hall understood what he (Robbie) was talking about?

A similar situation exists in regard to other chapters supposedly "contributed" by leading NLP figures, thus:

in Chapter Six ... the section on Expanding and Developing Images ... [Derived primarily from Wyatt Woodsmall]
Chapter Eight ... [Derived in part from Tad James and in part from Bob Klaus]
Chapter Four ... [This chapter was derived mostly from the presentations given by Eric Robbie, along with some from Richard Bandler (Belief Change) and Chris Hall (Linguistic Markers).  It also contains many of my own ideas]
and Chapter Eleven ... [The following is derived primarily from Will McDonald]

So let's see if I've got this right.  It appears that Hall:

  • Goes to seminars run by well-known NLP trainers
  • Makes notes
  • Creates an edited down version of what he thinks went on
  • Mixes in a generous portion of his own ideas (without bothering to clearly indicate which is which)
  • And then presents the whole package with the claim that the resulting hodge podge (actually written exclusively by Michael Hall):
    "... includes significant contributions from other master trainers ..."

What an interesting idea!
I wonder if Mr Hall has also been handing over an appropriate percentage of his royalty cheques to all these people who made such "significant contributions"?
A real "yuk" if ever I saw one.

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Precision : A New Approach to Communication
Michael McMaster & John Grinder
For Precision read Meta, for Precision Model (which is what this book is all about) read Meta Model.
Not exactly what you might have expected from a book copyrighted in 1993 that claims to offer "a new approach to communication" - unless you notice that it is significantly older than it's copyright notice implies.

Actually, Precision is more interesting for what it doesn't tell us than for what it does say.

Firstly, why does it have a copyright date of 1993?  On page 35 we find the following comment:

In 1965 Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe published a book which was destined to become a classic in the field of business - The Rational Manager. ... the particular components that they identified ... continue to dominate discussions of problem solving and decision making even now, some fifteen years after their book was published.
(Italics as in original text)

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate that 1965 plus 15 years brings us up to around 1980, not 1993.  So what happened to the intervening 13 years?
And what's so "new" about such a simplistic description of the Meta Model as late as 1993?

Next, there's the question of who wrote what?
Out of just over 280 pages, about 15 are given over to well-written, apposite, interesting metaphors which signpost the main issues and learning points in the current chapter.
The other 260+ pages are packed with some of the most tortuous, badly-constructed prose it has ever been my misfortune to come across.  As in the following example:

The ideal solution to this dilemma would be to provide the information processor with a device which accomplished for information coded in language the same thing that the blow-up process associated with aerial photography does for information coded in photos.
(page 22)

and just in case you missed the brilliant analogy:

As we indicated, the ideal solution would be to provide the information processor with a device which did for information coded in language what the technology of aerial photography and the blow-up process do for information stored in a visual representation.
(page 23)

It certainly isn't pure gobbledegook.  In fact once you get the point it becomes perfectly clear.  But in a book that purports to teach clearer communication and enhanced information gathering techniques, it's pretty dire.

But perhaps the biggest mystery lies in trying to imagine who this book is really aimed at.

Any reader who already has a basic knowledge of NLP will almost certainly know more about the Meta Model than is explained in this tiresomely repetitious book - even allowing for the slightly modified labels:

  • The 'Noun Blockbuster' (read unspecified noun)
  • The 'Action Blockbuster' (read unspecified verb)
  • The 'Universal Blockbuster' (read universal quantifier)
  • The 'Comparator pointer' (read comparative deletion)
  • and so on, and so on.

As far as the business market is concerned, I find it hard to imagine that the average manager, already stretched to the limit, is going to want to spend his or her valuable time ploughing through this leaden text on the offchance of finding a something of value.
So who does that leave?
Definitely not recommended.

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Advanced Language Patterns Mastery
Larry McLauchlin
To cut straight to the chase, my only reservation about this book is the price.
Given that this is actually the workbook for Larry's Advanced Language Patterns Workshop, and amounts to not much more than 50 A4 pages of text (and about the same again of lined space to write in comments, answers, etc.) it strikes me that if we compare it with, say, Shelle Rose Charvet's Words that Change Minds, then $35 US / $40 Canadian is a pretty high price, even if it does include postage.
UPDATE:   Although this book is not currently available from Amazon, at the time of writing (Oct 3, 2007) you can get a PDF. download of the book at a reduced price ($10 discount) here:


or see here to order the hard copy version:


Despite that qualification I think it's fair to say that this book deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in language patterns and how they can be used to improve one's general communication skills.
In the preface to the second edition of the book Larry makes this simple statement:

I have not developed new [language] patterns here, but rather I have collected together the existing patterns and provided my interpretation and examples of how these patterns can be used."
Well, yes, that is essentially all that Larry has done, and the result is an extremely useful resource.  So useful, indeed, that it's hard to see why no-one else spotted the empty niche until Larry published the first edition in 1992.

Under 32 headings (not including the Introduction, the Concluding Remarks and the Bibliography), Larry covers topics such as the Milton Model and the Meta Model, Sleight of Mouth patterns, Submodalities, Presuppositions (that's as in 'what thinking lies behind this phrase?' rather than the NLP presuppositions such as 'Everybody has all the resources...', etc.)

So, there's nothing much new, but how useful to have all this information in one volume rather than scattered piecemeal over a dozen or more other books.
Doubly useful, in fact, because Larry doesn't just describe the patterns - he provides practical examples in every case, which I, for one, find quite invaluable.  (Note, in particular, the three paragraph section Speaking About Presuppositions on page 42 that demonstrates every single one of the 29 presuppositions outlined in The Structure of Magic (also reviewed in this list).)

So, highly recommended to all but the most expert NLP wordsmiths: * * * * * *  (despite the price!)

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NLP Solutions
Sue Knight
Despite the gushing praise from learning styles guru Peter Honey on the back cover, I found this book deeply unsatisfying.

The subtitle on the front cover describes this as a book about "How to Model What Works in Business to Make it Work for You".  Is it unreasonable to read this as meaning that the book is about how to model best business practice?  I don't think so, yet there is very little here, as far as I can see, about the nitty gritty of an modelling process other than a fragmented introduction to the Dilts Logical Levels model - it starts on page 87, trickles on till page 103 then disappears, only to resurface for another 7 pages, starting at page 187.
It is the more interesting that Ms Knight concentrates on the long-running Logical Levels model given her rather patronising comment on page 226:

I know of training schools that still use some of the exercises that we experienced then, over 10 years ago; I have to admit to using the odd one or two myself."

How true that is.  In fact I didn't find anything in this book that didn't date back 10 years or more (according to Robert Dilts, he first developed the so-called Logical Levels model in around 1987).  Not that this actually matters.  If, as Dilts has said, NLP is about 'what works' I'm puzzled as to why Ms Knight bothered to bring up the age thing in the first place.

What we actually have here is yet another introduction to the standard NLP techniques, plus a liberal smattering of anecdotes drawn, I assume, from personal experience of applying NLP in the work place.
Given a lot less of the 'what to do' and a lot more 'how to do it', this might have been a genuinely useful book.  As it is, it comes across as not much more as a brochure for Ms Knight's own NLP training company and her previous book.
(There are at least a dozen references of the kind: "This skill is explained in more detail in NLP at Work.".  Personally I find this habit, by no means unique to this author, totally unacceptable.  If the material is relevant it should be included in the current text!)

I also found it more than a lttle difficult to figure out just where this book was coming from in terms of underlying values.  In the final chapter (on Leadership) for example, Ms Knight offers up as a role model someone called "Mike Campbell, vice-president - Europe for personnel at Fujitsu Computers".  On the very same page we are told that one Mike's values is:

Trust: is about working with people, with an implied commitment in that working relationship.  I give people the freedom to do their job on trust.  However, if that confidence or bond is broken, then it breeds suspicion in all areas of the relationship.  I have learned that I can work with anyone but if I don't have the trust or it is broken the relationship doesn't progress.

A model of leadership thinking?  I don't think so!  Especially not from someone who is quoted only half a page earlier as saying:

I fully accept that people do things in the way that they can at the time that they do it.  That is just the way that they are.

I was also more than a little amused by the opening sentence of the Forewod to this book, provided by a certain Robert Dilts which states that:

NLP Solutions is well written (sic), jargon free, and pragmatic ...
"Well written"? In comparison to Dilt's own usually dust-dry style it probably is.
"Jargon free"? Then why does it need a glossary?
"Pragmatic"? Could that have anything to do with the fact that Dilts himself developed the Logical Levels model (which has been questioned with increasing frequency of late)?  Surely not!

All-in-all this is, in my opinion, another 'wheat and chaff' book.
If you know enough to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff then you've already outgrown this book; if you don't know that much, this book is as likely to hinder your progress as to help it.
Definitely not recommended.

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Andy Bradbury can be contacted at: bradburyac@mistral.co.uk