HONEST ABE'S
NLP BOOK REVIEWS

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


Reviews: Part 31

 
 
 

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)]

Master Teaching Techniques (4th ed.)
Bernard F. Cleveland
0-9608678-3-X
In terms of the way psychology has developed over the last few decades, this book was very much "of its time", which is fortunately a time now long past.  Before going into that consideration in more detail, however, I need to start by correcting a rather strange error.  This book is not about using NLP techniques in teaching.  And I cannot for the life of me imagine why the author (it appears to be a self-publishing production) chose this title.
It is, in fact, an introduction to NLP, but laid out in a way that specifically relates it to counseling, and counseling of students in particular.

Another strange feature of the book is the fact that it carries no printing history.  My copy is of the so-called fourth edition (which I'm guessing actually means fourth printing, because a new edition is only required when the text of a book has undergone significant revisions/additions).  It is dated June, 1987, and there is no indication when it was first published, or when the other two "editions" were published.
The reason I mention this is because it is relevant to a fair evaluation of the book.

To be precise, in 1984 (which is the earliest publication date I can find), books on NLP were few and far between.  So writing a basic introduction to NLP was far from commonplace, and writing an introduction for a specialised market was positively radical.  By 1987, on the other hand, Michael Grinder had produced his book on the use of NLP in schools - Righting the Educational Conveyor Belt (1986) - which is just so much better than this book that I'm not even going to attempt a comparison.  By the early 1990's when books like Eric Jensen's excellent Super Teaching (1990) were also available, Master Teaching Techniques has definitely reached the end of it's usefulness.

But it isn't just a matter of age.  To be quite blunt I found this book positively creepy.
Firstly, and I come back to my opening point here, the basic thinking behind the book seems loaded with "behaviourist" ideas.  Indeed, in the section ABOUT THIS BOOK, the author claims that the book:

"... shows teachers how to become 'behavioral engineers' ..."

This was only a few years short of the monumentally ineffective business fad for 'business process re-engineering', and this book reflects that mentality to perfection.  No wonder the author claims that creating the right physiological state is the key to everything else ("Principles of Learning" - Principle #1).
In practise, as the BPR fiasco demonstrated, much as this behaviorist approach simply doesn't pay dividends in practice.  Indeed, it is much more likely to alienate those on the receiving end rather than motivating them.

I was also struck by the lack of humour, passion, or even basic enthusiasm for it's subject that characterises the text.  Instead it reads like a car maintenance manual rather than a book on how to apply NLP skills.  That is to say, whilst the book is allegedly designed to teach NLP techniques, the writing style, layout, etc. seem completely devoid of any but the most basic communication skills.
Talking of which, why was it thought necessary, I wonder, to change so many of the standard NLP names - and without any mention that changes have been made?  For example:

  • The "meta model" becomes the "information gathering model"
  • "Anchors" become "links" ...
  • "Stacking anchors" becomes "combining links"
  • "Chaining anchors" becomes "integrating links"
  • "Visual squash" becomes "visual scramble"

And so on, and so on.  Of course the regular names aren't sacrosanct, but if the book is described as being based on NLP, what's the point of changing some NLP labels and not others?  "Calibration", for example, remains "calibration" - though that isn't exactly what one might call a self-explanatory label.

My third objection was triggered by what I perceived to be a lack of underlying integrity.  On page 82, in a section on using the mirroring technique, for example, the following advice is given:

"If students realize that in some way you are using mirroring techniques on them, and they call attention to the fact, it is helpful to have a ready response that can be used as a retort: 'I was so interested in what you were saying, I was not even aware I was doing that.' "

That's not a "retort", Dr. Cleveland - that's a pre-planned, barefaced lie.  Certainly not quite what I'd expected to find in a book allegedly describing "Master Teaching Techniques."

At one level, to be fair, the book is more accurate than some other introductions to NLP that I've read.  By and large NLP techniques are described correctly, and the chapter on THE BRAIN is much more up-to-date than some books being published around twenty years later.  On the other hand, there are some strange little anomalies dotted around.  Like the "integrating links" exercise where we are told several times that "the teacher breaks the state".  Or instructions are given for which there is no explanation, like "Go through the experience map" (p.138), whatever that might mean.  There are various undefined terms such as "outcome frame" and "resource frame".  And incomprehensible claims such as the idea that "links" ("anchors") are only for remedial use, but "transforms" (meaning "reframes") are to be used for development.

Taken as a whole I found the book to be tedious, and unattractive on several counts, and it seems to me that the ultimate measure of the contents is summed up in this comment by one of the teachers Mr Cleveland has trained, quoted in Chapter 22: "TYPICAL INTERVENTIONS AND THEIR RESULTS":

"It was not necessary to build rapport with Eric because I see Eric daily."

Really?  And we just naturally have rapport with the people we "see daily"?  I wonder if, having only just learned these techniques, she had any way of telling whether she and Eric were in rapport?

There are now several books dealing with the the application of NLP to teaching, and in a far more inspired and inspiring manner.  Which leaves no reason I can think of why anyone would want to by this one.
A definite yuk!

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Up Your Aspirations
Robert Smith
Pau Publications   ISBN 1-900641-00-3
This is one of those books that starts out well but never quite delivers on its initial promise.

Part of the problem seems to be that this is rather obviously a self-published book.  That is to say, a good editor might have produced a far more focused book than the noticeably repetitive text on offer here.  He or she might also have weeded out a few gaffes, such as the ill-advised, and totally unnecessary reference to religious views on pages 139-140.

The second pitfall lies in the fact that it is described as a "negotiating program using NLP."  Which is a great idea, but it does mean that the author was bound to achieve three goals rather than just one (explain negotiating skills, explain NLP techniques, explain how NLP can be used in negotiations).  Whilst the book does moderately well on the first count, I'm not convinced makes a very good job of achieving the second or third goals.

It isn't that I expected a complete introduction to NLP alongside the negotiating material.  There is no indication, however, that the reader should already be acquainted with NLP before reading this book, and on that basis I did expect to see rather more NLP material than I found.  In fact I would have liked to have found some link up with NLP in every section where relevant (just about everywhere), and I would have liked it to be described more precisely and a little more accurately.  After all, if you stick "NLP" on the front cover and on the title page then there's not much reason for getting coy about it in the text.

To put it bluntly, this book is long past its sell by date.
When it was first published, in mid-1996, it was realistically priced, and a fairly useful volume for anyone who was a complete newcomer to both NLP and negotiating, given that the total catalogue of NLP books was fairly limited, and there was nothing else that I know of that dealt with the use of NLP in negotiations.
The intervening decade has seen substantial changes, however, and the book now looks severely overpriced (26.99 new on Amazon.co.uk/$120.38 minimum, used on Amazon.com) and equally short of content which justifies the book as a guide to either negotiating or NLP.  And despite the fact that there are still no book length treatment of NLP as a negotiating tool, its value as a guide to this topic is likewise too limited to justify even its "used" price in the UK - 12.00.

According to the back cover blurb, Robert Smith was (is?) both an internationally renowned trainer in negotiating skills with plenty of practical expertise (including acting as a negotiating advisor to the UN - whatever that means).  Unfortunately the translation of this expertise into book form is not particularly impressive.  If I wanted a book on negotiating aimed at this skill level I'd prefer Pierre Casse's One Hour Negotiator (not currently in print), or Gavin Kennedy's Everything is Negotiable.  Combined with a decent introduction to NLP such as O'Connor and Seymour's Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming, you could pick up a far more in depth introduction to both subjects for as little as 11.00 plus postage from Amazon.co.uk third party suppliers.
Alternatively, see the next review - I hear what you say ... - for an excellent book aimed primarily at mediators and conflict resolution yet includes a wealth of material that will be of use to negotiators.

By the time I staggered to the end of this book, despite the author's bright and breezy style it seemed to me that the text could have been cut by at least 50% without loosing any of its worthwhile material.  A price cut to about 6.99 would also have earned it a higher rating.
Just about scrapes in as a qualified recommendation   *   *

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I hear what you say, but what are you telling me?
Barbara Madonik
Jossey-Bass   ISBN 0-7879-5709-7
My biggest problem with this book was trying to figure whether to give it 5 stars or 6.  In the end I settled for 6 stars, because this was, for me, one of the best NLP-related books I've read to date.

To be fair, I must admit that I didn't take to the book straight away - partly because I started by reading through the Contents pages and spotted that the same headings appeared in several different chapters.  But this is a deliberate strategy by Ms. Madonik.  Rather than trying to cram everything she has to say about a particular technique or meta program into a single explanation, the author has divided the book into two parts.  In Part 1 she lays the groundwork necessary to bring even NLP novices up to speed, and in Part 2 she describes a seven step mediation/conflict resolution process - and discusses each technique and meta program as they relate to each specific stage in the proceedings.
Even though I was already familiar with much of the material in the book, I found this approach seemed to work very well.

By the way, although the primary audience the author has in her sights consists of people handling mediation, many of the topics covered in the book apply just as well to activities such as negotiating, running meetings, etc.  In fact I happily recommend the book to anyone who has to deal with any kind of situation which involves getting two or more people/parties to reach a mutual agreement.

On a completely different tack, I found the book particularly satisfying because it treats the use of the various NLP techniques as genuine skills, not just party tricks that can be learnt and applied in a matter of minutes.
I readily agree that most NLP techniques are, on the face of it, very simple.  But then hitting a chisel with a mallet to carve out a tenon joint is very simple, on the face of it.  Yet the difference between the work of a weekend DIY enthusiast and that of a skilled woodworker is such that even the most cursory examination is sufficient to tell which is which.
This book, in my estimation, is written for the people who want to know WHAT to do, and are prepared to take the time to learn to become skilled in the art of NLP, rather than being satisfied with being a "weekend bodger".

I could write a much longer review - describing, for example, all the little nuggets of wisdom that are the product of the author's obvious experience as a mediator.  On the other hand, there is just so much worthwhile content that I don't think any review that didn't amount to a small book in its own right could really do this justice.
So I'll end as I started, by rating the book:
Highly Recommended   *   *   *   *   *   *

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Practical Magic
Stephen Lankton
Crown House Publishing   ISBN 1-904424-11-2
My first problem in trying to review this book is that I have no idea who it is intended for.

First written in 1978, and first published in 1980 by Meta Publications; this is a 2003 reprint with a new Foreword by the author (a whole 2 sides!).  And all for a cover price just one penny short of 20.00 in the UK ($29.95 in the US).
(Note: The US price is discounted, on Amazon,com to the equivalent of just over 11.00 - depending on the exchange rate - a far more realistic price.  No discount at all is offered on Amazon.co.uk.)

To be blunt, despite its alleged status as a "cult classic", I figure the book is worth, at best, around half it's cover price.  And even that's because I'm in a charitable mood!
To be blunt again, in my opinion this book is what we used to call a "swizz".  And I don't just mean because it as no clear direction.

According to the book's subtitle it is "A Translation of Basic Neuro-Linguistic Programming into Clinical Psychotherapy" - whatever the heck that means.
If it means "here's how therapists from other disciplines can use NLP in their own work", why does the chart comparing NLP techniques with those of other therapies, such as Gestalt and Transactional Analysis come as late as pages 204-209, and why waste space on a "noddy" comparison chart when any reader with two brain cells to rub together will have figured this information out for him or herself long before they reach this point (if they reach it at all).  And why does the chart reveal little more than that the other disciplines already use many of the same techniques but using different vocabularies?
And why should the followers of other schools of psychotherapy think their work is being appropriately represented when six or more different approaches are covered in just 26 pages?

I think the whole value of the book, from an experienced therapist's point of view, was summed up by these two lines:

"This book has not introduced any new or mysterious ways for change to occur.  It has, however, introduced some new words to pinpoint existing patterns of change that are found in various therapies, and in many households, corporations and information/entertainment media.""
(pages 221-222)

It takes 228 pages to teach people a few new words for what they already know/do?  I wonder why the author didn't do us all a favour and stick THAT bit of information on the front or back cover?  It would have saved a lot of wasted time all round!

.Alternatively, if the book is designed to show NLPers how NLP techniques can be used in theraputic situations, what, if anything, does the author claim to be adding to what was already available in the two volume set The Structure of Magic by Bandler and Grinder, apart from the so-called study guide for those books, presented in a 12 page appendix?
In my opinion the honest answer would be "nothing but a few touches of cofusion and misinformation".  For example, on page 41 we get a chart of the eye accessing cues (minus defocused, looking straight ahead), shown from an observer's point of view.  Yet without explanation or warning, when we come across any descriptions of the accessing cues in the text, as in Chapter 5, for example, most if not all of the descriptions are given from the subject's point of view!

I was similarly impressed (not!) by this attempt at scientific authenticity, also in Chapter 5:

"As always, there is abundant information you can glean from the client's face color changes, pupil dilation, movement of the orbicularis oculi, the oris, zygomatic and risorius muscles of the face ..."
(page 132. Italics added.)

Have you any idea what the heck he's talking about?  Neither did I, so I looked the names up, and you know what he's actually saying, as near as dammit?

"As always, there is abundant information you can glean from the client's face color changes, pupil dilation, movement of the muscles around the eyes, the lips and in the cheeks ..."

No doubt the author had some positive intention when he decided to go by the "scenic route" rather than using plain English.  I just cannot for the life of me think what it might have been - especially since this is the only time in the whole book that he uses this particular confusion technique.

My next point concerns passage in the new foreword where the author tells us:

"I am so excited to reintroduce this, so called, 'cult classic'."
(page ix)

Because despite all this excitement, it doesn't appear that any effort at all has been made to bring the contents up to date, or to correct errors such as the eye accessing descriptions mentioned above.
The author has remained active in the field of Ericksonian therapy since sometime in 1979 (when he withdrew from NLP - no reason given), and therefore presumably knows about the many advances in psychology and neurophysiology since that time.  Yet there isn't a single book in the Bibliography with a date of publication later than 1978.
By the same token, the text reflects a world in which the "left brain/right brain" model of Gazzaniga, Sperry and Ornstein is still king of the hill, and although Milton Erickson's death in March 1980 is mentioned in the new Foreword, according to the text on pages 61, 156, etc.he is apparently still alive.
Are we to suppose that the author and/or publisher are really satisfied that there have been no changes in our knowledge, and no new books of any significance that relate to this subject matter in the last 25 years?  Or is it fair to say that this book is essentially a quarter of a century past it's sell-by date?

OK, third and final time, to be blunt, this book is ridiculously overpriced, it's written in a style that I can only describe as typically "1970s pretentious", and is so inferior to Steven Heller's Monster's and Magical Sticks (which, in all important respects covers the same ground), that it seems like an impertinence to even mention them in the same sentence.
In 1980, when books on NLP were few and far between, this might have looked pretty good.  By 2003, however, it had been redundant for quite some time.
Not worth recommending to anyone, for any reason.

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Andy Bradbury can be contacted at: bradburyac@hotmail.com