HONEST ABE'S
NLP BOOK REVIEWS
 

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


Reviews: Part 12  
 
 

All pages on this site were prepared using WinHTML


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

The Wild Days: NLP 1972 - 1981
Terrence L. McClendon
Meta Publications  0-916990-23-0
This is not a guide to NLP or NLP techniques, but rather a personal record of the author's experiences of the birth and early development of NLP.

Want to know how NLP came about?  The true nature of the relationship between Bandler and Grinder before they parted company?  Why Bandler has always maintained that he is the sole creator of NLP?  Why NLP is the way it is (especially in regard to its apparent disdain for the "scientific method")?
Then this is the book you must read.

This is not, to be honest, great literature.  It isn't even, according to Richard Bandler, an exact match for his own memories of the formative years of NLP.  On the other hand, as Bandler goes on to say, in the Foreward to the book:

"But that's not the point.  What [McClendon] has captured, beyond dispute, is the spirit of adventure that gave birth to NLP"

I'll second that!
Strongly recommended - in its rather unique class.   *  *  *  *  * 

(Note:   Whilst Amazon list "The Wild Days" as being out of print, on-line mail order company Anglo-American books tell me they still have several copies in stock - see www.anglo-american.co.uk.)

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Selling the Way your Customer Buys
Marvin Sadovsky and Jon caswell
Amacom  0-8144-7889-1
According to one of the endorsements on the back cover:

"The book underscores what skilled sales and markrting executives realize: People today do not like to be sold to.  The 'selling' salesperson is rapidly - and thankfully - becoming extinct."
(emphasis as in the original)

Maybe, maybe not - and either way that certainly isn't the line taken in this book.
On the contrary, all the authors have done here is apply a few NLP techniques to the same, tired old foot-in-the-door technique so beloved of unskilful salespeople the world over.

On the plus side, the format of this book is a joy to behold.  It is designed to describe the use of just eight meta programs which the authors see as being key to the sales process.  And this it does, as far as structure is concerned, in a very effective fashion.

Each meta program is described and a sample elicitation question is described. Each meta program chapter includes a "Practise Makes Perfect" section, which contains a number of sample dialogues (usually three or four) in which the sales person uses a version of the question - as in "HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT your supplier/accountant/lawyer/a co-worker IS GOOD at their job?"  (The text in bold upper case is described as "the formula", and the text in lower case italics is "the context".)
This is followed by a response from the hypothetical customer, and the reader is invited to identify the nature of the "customer's" response (for the question just quoted, the authors say the response would be "visual", "auditory" or "feelings".  This is possibly because they don't know the difference between a rep system and a convincer channel?).
The chapter then ends with a "Review" section where the sample exchanges are repeated with explanatory comments.

Unfortunately I found several reasons for giving the book a rather luke warm recommendation.

Firstly, I find the idea that the human brain is "a computer", even as a metaphor, to be both ignorant and degrading.  No marks, then, to the authors for describing their selection of meta programs as "The HOS Profile", where "HOS" stands for "human operating system".

Secondly, I have to say that after reading Sharon Drew Morgan's book Selling with Integrity, I found this book to be decidedly uninspired and uninspiring.
As I mentioned earlier, this is strictly old-style hard selling with a few NLP-based tweaks.  Compared with Ms Morgan's book, where both the presentation and the content benefit from a new approach, this book has very little to offer.  Especially when we realise that it wasn't even the first book to be based on Rodger Bailey's "LAB Profile" use of meta programs in business.

By the time Selling the Way Your Customer Buys came out, Shelle Rose Charvet's Words that Change Minds, which also draws on the LAB Profile, had already been on sale for the best part of a year.  Apart from the heavy emphasis on examples, Selling is nowhere near as good a book as Words, though Shelle's book is the cheaper of the two.

In the final analysis, Selling the Way Your Customer Buys is what I call a "carpet bagger".  By which I mean that it seems to have been written with a less than complete understanding of the subject, quite possibly as self-publicity for the author(s).  (In this case at least one of the authors has his own training company.)

Even if this were the only book on the subject I still wouldn't give it an unqualified recommendation.
As it stands, I'd suggest that anyone interested in this aspect of NLP - meta programs and selling/business - would be better advised to read Selling with Integrity and Words that Change Minds, followed by Bandler and LaValle's Persuasion Engineering (all three are reviewed elsewhere on this site).

Recommended, with very little enthusiasm:  *   *   *

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The Magic of Metaphor
Nick Owen
Crown House  1-899837-670-5
I was thinking about how I would summarise the basic flaw in this book when I came across the following passage in Duane Larkin's book The Unfair Advantage (see next review) which sums the whole thing up in just three sentences:

"One secret to successful story-telling is to avoid interpretation.  The power of a metaphor is in the vaccuum it creates.  If a story is interpreted, it loses its power and becomes subject to resistance and filtering."

What is remarkable in this book is that this misguided urge to explain a metaphor begins in the Foreward - written by none other than NLP doyen Judith DeLozier!

Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, to find that all that the "author" adds to this collection of "77 stories for Teachers, Trainers & Thinkers" is a 25 page, highly redundant, explanation of what various metaphors will mean to the listeners.

As to the stories themselves, whilst they are indeed an interesting mix, most of them have appeared in other collections, and there are too many occasions where the author has turned an originally succinct, impactful tale into something approaching a "shaggy dog story".  It would appear that Mr Owen has not yet heard the saying that "Brevity is the soul of wit".

To put it quite bluntly, if I wanted a book of teaching stories I would rather purchase ANY of Idries Shah's books (Caravan of Dreams, Wisdom of the Idiots, Learning How to Learn, etc.) before I'd buy this.
Why?  Because I'd get more stories, of uniformly high quality, with none of the misplaced and unnecessary explanations - and in most cases at only half the price!

So, "e for effort", but nothing for the final product.
No reason to recommend this book on any level.

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The Unfair Advantage
Duane Lakin
Lakin Associates  0-9679162-0-8
Let me start by saying that this is the most professional example of self-publishing I have ever come across.  Apart from the spiral binding it is the equal of any product of a regular publishing house.  And believe me, that is quite an achievement in itself.

So is this a case of "good news first"?  No, I'm happy to say, it isn't.  This publication is well worth its "highly recommended" status.  It gives clear, succinct explanations and regular, top quality exercises with detailed solutions.  It is, in my opinion, a book written by someone who REALLY understands his intended audience.

To be 'objective', I should add that it is true that Lakin Associates also offer "The Unfair Advantage" as a formal training course on the use of NLP as a sales tool.  Having said that, however, throughout this book I was satisfied that I was getting a 100 per cent explanation of the material being covered.  Indeed, the more I read, the more impressed I was by Duane's ability to deliver a training resource through the medium of the printed word.

I must also acknowledge that the book has a fairly hefty price tag ... Until you realise that the book is easily the equivalent of the content of a two or three day training course - which would cost you a whole lot more!

So, whilst I could ramble on at some length on the various virtues of this book, I'll leave it at this: If you want to know how to apply NLP in the sales situation, make this your FIRST purchase.  It's as simple as that.

Highly recommended for sales people, especially those with a sketchy or non-existent knowledge of NLP   * * * * * *

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Your Ticket to Success
Alex McMillan
Management Books 2000 Ltd.   1-85252-281-X
Even if I hadn't just read Selling with Integrity and The Unfair Advantage (both included in these reviews), I still wouldn't be inclined to recommend this book.

Despite the obligatory, effusive recommendations on the back cover, this is actually a rather poor "practical guide to the new and evolving techniques of NLP, as applied specifically in sales and marketing contexts" (taken from the back cover 'blurb').

First published in 1997, I get the feeling that this was intended as yet another self-advertisement, in this case for Mr McMillan's Success Express consultancy and training organisation.  Indeed, if I was issued the text as a set of course notes then I would be far less critical about them.  And that's the crux of the problem.

Were someone to explain to me what everything in the book meant - as on one of Mr McMillan's introductory courses - then I imagine I might find this book a useful reminder of what we had covered on the course.  As a standalone book, however, the text is too clipped and superficial to serve as a good introduction to the subject.  As it stands, there is too much "what" to do, and too little "how" to do it, as typified by this paragraph on one of the meta programs:

"Task vs. Relationship Oriented Preference
 
A very important category if you are looking for a job or trying to secure a brief as a recruiter.  Ask: 'Tell me about the job itself?'
Observe the way the employer or prospective client answers."
(page 115)

That's it!  That's the whole explanation.  Not a word about what I'm looking for, or what I can usefully deduce from what I see (or hear?).
Even with some experience of NLP (and a number of years as a Personnel Manager) I'm not at all clear as to what the author has in mind here, so what chance is there for someone whose knowledge of NLP is near zero?

Incidentally, note that phrase "prospective client".  Only three pages earlier the author comments "once while selling training seminars I recognised that my future client (prospect, if you want to start out courting failure) was a difference decider".  And the difference between "prospect" and "prospective client" is ...?  Mr McMillan may have some interesting/useful ideas on the subject, but unfortunately he doesn't choose to share them in this book.

To conclude, then, although the book includes occasional flashes of brilliance, these are way too few and too brief, given the other books on the market which address the same subject matter in a far more 'reader friendly' and competent manner.
Not Recommended.

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Super Communication The NLP Way
Russell Webster
David Grant Publishing.   1-901306-22-4
At just over 50 pages, the front cover "In Just Sixty Minutes" logo presumably refers to the time it will take you read this book.  What it doesn't tell you is whether it would be worth your while to devote so much time to this mishmash of ideas.

My main question regarding this book is: "Who is it intended for?"  And quite frankly I don't think this is a question that has a ready answer.

It certainly wouldn't be of any use to someone who already knows the even the very basics of NLP.  That is to say, whilst the author does eventually include some NLP material, he certainly takes his time getting round to it - and such discussion of NLP techniques as there is turns out to be pretty superficial.

This need not have been so had the book been truly NLP-oriented.  For example, what are the FROG and AARVARC acronyms doing here?  They are nothing to do with NLP, being more the sort of thing you might expect to find in a very generalised 'self-development' stocking-filler.

Likewise, whilst there is an almost complete absence of NLP presuppositions, we are treated to a "set of 20 'rules' that I [RW] felt would help people to understand and deal with others."

Which would be perfectly fine, were it not for the fact that this is being presented as a book on NLP - but only one or two of these so-called rules (maybe three - at a stretch) bears any similarity to the concepts in NLP.  Take rule seven, for example.  It starts:

"Everyone must be forgiven, unequivocally and permanently.   Whatever they have done they're nothing but products of their own childhood."

Well yes, forgiveness is certainly a lot better than holding a grudge - but this pseudo-Freudian pap about everyone being nothing more than a product of their own childhood?  This strikes me as being a very poor understanding of NLP thinking.

And how about this sentence (!) from the commentary on rule four:

"Being an over-the-top, brash, flash, all-talking, non-listening, pretentious, 'mine's bigger than yours' type of loud-mouthed social bully isn't big and it's not clever!"

What can I add except "and don't run with scissors in your hand".

Even for complete newcomers to NLP, this book - which features no bibliography other than a list of other (unrelated) publications from the same publisher, is a complete non-starter.

So, no use to novice NLPers, and no use to newcomers.  Even at the knockdown price of 4.99 I regard this as a sad misuse of innocent trees.
Definitely one to avoid.

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1
Robert Dilts et al
Meta Publications.   0-916990-07-9 [Hb]
Before getting on with the review, let's clear up a couple of technical details:

  1. Although the official copyright date is given as 1980, the book is said to have been written in 1978.  And in true NLP style, BOTH dates are correct.
    According to Dilts, in response to an e-mail enquiry, the original version of the book was completed in 1978 (when Bandler and Dilts were still working as a team), but it took a year to get the book ready for publication.  The 1980 copyright date refers to the point in time when the book took on its final, published form.
  2. Although the book is listed as having four authors - Bandler, Grinder, Judith DeLozier and Dilts, it was actually written by Dilts - as his Behavioral Technology thesis - though he no doubt had copious input and comment from the other three.

I make the second point specifically because this is probably the worst of all of Dilts' books, which makes its precise origin especially relevant.

This is not the first of Dilts' books I have read, but it is surely the most mind boggling for its sheer obtuseness, obfuscation and choice to use several pages of text where a single paragraph would do.  The fact is that a good author can make even complicated material appear straightforward and clear.  Unfortunately, then as now, Dilts seems to be under the impression that "ponderous verbosity" = "profundity".  It doesn't.  It just means that the author isn't equal to the task s/he has embarked upon.

Although it is subtitled "The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience", this is by no means a comprehensive study of the basics of NLP as of 1978 (just 5 years into the development of NLP).  On the contrary, its 280+ densely packed pages are a rambling and diffuse discussion of the five "rep. systems" (otherwise known as primary thinking styles), and not much else.
Worse yet, the book attempts to attach far more significance to the rep systems that can possibly be justified in retrospect., for example:

"It can be postulated that the simultaneous pairing of two different representations within the same representational system is one of the functions of the two cerebral hemispheres in human beings."
(page 33)

Over 20 years later we know that the "postulate" doesn't hold water.

Elsewhere in the book it is suggested that rep systems are directly related to a person's body type (that is: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph).  Were this in fact correct it would be hard to see how people could vary their preferred rep system(s) according to context, as they quite obviously do.

So, obsolete material, presented in a wholly unhelpful, pretentiously pseudo-academic style.  Or to put it bluntly: hard to read, and not worth the effort even if you do make it all the way through.
Definitely NOT recommended.

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Introducing NLP
Sue Knight
CIPD   0-85292-772-K
No, NOT "that" Introducing NLP - just a rather small book with the same name.

If you've read my reviews of Ms Knight's other two paperbacks - NLP at Work and NLP Solutions - then you'll know that I'm not a great fan of her work.  In this particular case, however, I think the writing is more focused and of a significantly higher standard.  Unfortunately the content rather undermines that advantage:

  • On the subject of rapport we are told that rapport is "a two-way street".  Oh really, then how do con men and 'sharp' salesmen manage to create rapport with their victims?
  • Ms Knight has also taking to creating her own NLP presuppositions, such as:
    • "The quality of your communication lies in the effect it achieves" - whatever that means;
    • "There is learning in everything that happens".  Well, yes, in one sense there is.  But since Ms Knight seems to be talking specifically about conscious learning, it would probably have been more accurate to say that "there is the potential for learning in everything that happens".
  • Given her own presupposition I was rather surprised to find this comment: "If there is one talent that we need above all others today, it is the ability to learn ... People who can do this ...".
    Sorry, "people who can do this"?  Haven't we been told that there is "learning in everything that happens"?  Is Ms Knight seriously suggesting that some people cannot learn?  This discussion seems a little confused, to put it mildly!
  • From the point of view of a complete NLP novice, this book stands out from all other NLP texts in that it ALMOST completely avoids specialised jargon - most of the time.  The exception to this comes around page 51 (of 65) where Ms Knight suddenly, with no introduction and no explicit explanation, starts referring to "anchors".
  • If this is a true "introduction" to NLP then it has to be asked why the bibliography is so brief and so limited.
    In Seymour and O'Connor's "Introducing NLP" (3rd printing) the authors include an annotated list of NLP books that runs to nearly twelve pages.  Ms Knight lists just three books - two by herself, plus Genie Laborde's Influencing with Integrity.  Are these really the ONLY books she thinks are worth reading?
  • And finally, whilst reading the book, I found myself constantly wondering what sort of audience the book is intended for.
    It is, in reality, more of a "taster" than an "introduction".  It covers several NLP techniques but doesn't really explain what NLP is.  (To be fair, it's hardly the first book that has fallen into that pit.).
    Personally I doubt I'd want to pass or recommend this book to anyone except as, say, part of a sales pitch to a company training officer/manager who knew absolutely nothing about NLP and with whom I could subsequently discuss and expand upon the various points raised in the text.   Not exactly a mega market place, I'd have thought?
    Not recommended   *
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Andy Bradbury can be contacted at: bradburyac@hotmail.com