NLP Book Reviews
International NLP Resources
NLP & Therapy
NLP & Education
NLP & Health
NLP, IQ, & Genius
NLP was developed in the mid-70s by John Grinder, a
Professor at UC Santa Cruz and Richard Bandler, a graduate
student. NLP, as most people use the term today, is a set of models of
how communication impacts and is impacted by subjective
experience. It's more a collection of tools than any overarching
Much of early NLP was based on the work of Virginia Satir,
a family therapist; Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt
therapy; Gregory Bateson, anthropologist; and Milton
Books are selections that I believe will be of interest to the readers
of the site. I recommend books on related topics, rather than simply
recommending pure NLP. For the most part, I emphasize writing clarity
and relevance of content. There is a lot of excellent stuff out
there for those of us interested in the human mind, learning, and
99, Difficult Conversations :
How to Discuss What Matters Most
99, Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better
99, The Inner Game of Tennis
98, How We Know What Isn't So
98, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
98, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind
98, Words that Change Minds
98, Dont Shoot the Dog
98, No book this month
98, The Art of Systems Thinking
98, Decision Traps
Conversations : How to Discuss What Matters Most
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.
Wow. This book
is probably the best book Ive ever read on how to approach
conflict management. It lays out a very simple framework for difficult
conversations. Each conversation is really three conversations:
one about facts and history, one about feelings, and one about identity.
Especially in business, its the facts conversation we are
taught to pay attention to.
In fact, the
authors propose, most difficult conversations are difficult mainly
because feelings and identity issues are involved. And they proceed
to lay out a framework for understanding the difficulties and dealing
with them. Each of the three conversations is explored in depth,
along with common pitfalls and common success strategies. Unlike
many books of this type, the strategies are specific, well-documented,
and easy to adopt.
The book is
written simply and clearly, with ample real-life anecdotes and examples
that illustrate the points. The final chapter is taken up with a
transcript of a "difficult conversation" and a step-by-step explanation
and analysis of whats going on.
If you have
ever had a difficult conversation not turn out the way you wanted,
or if you will be having a difficult conversation any time in the
future, grab this book and read it cover to cover. Its a gem.
Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions
by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, Howard Raiffa, 1998.
This book is
a wonderfully accessible presentation of state of the art techniques
for making good decisions. The book lays out a simple framework
for approaching decisions: Problem definition, Objectives, Alternatives,
Consequences, Tradeoffs, Uncertainties. It then goes through each
step of the decision making and shares anecdotes, examples, and
specific techniques for that part of the decision process.
What makes this
book exceptional is that it is based on research of good decision
making. The section on trade-offs, for example, demonstrates how
to simplify a set of choices by recognizing that sometimes different-seeming
choices can actually be equal.
Much of the
wisdom from this book comes from deceptively simple observations:
your decision will only ever be as good as your best alternative,
and most people spend very little time in the generating-alternatives
phase of decision making.
I learned a
lot from this book about how to make good decisions. Ive re-read
it twice, now, and taken extensive notes. Its got so much
good stuff in it that Im still incorporating it into my behavior.
If you care about making good decisions, this is the book for you.
Inner Game of Tennis
by W. Timothy Gallwey, 1997.
This book is
virtually a classic in how to train and learn physical sports. Gallwey
never set out to invent a new way of teaching tennis, but over time
as a tennis instructor, he developed several principles which make
it possible for anyone to learn tennis rapidly.
the relationship between Self 1 and "Self 2," which
NLPers would call the conscious and unconscious minds. Self 1 is
evaluative and analytical, while Self 2 is about doing and being.Learning
works best when Self 1 sets a direction and then gets out of
the way. Self 2 is a naturally exquisite learner thatproperly
harnessedcan learn incredibly quickly.
and learning techniques are presented in the context of tennis,
but they apply to almost anything you want to learn. The book is
a fast read, and it gives simple, usable instructions on how to
direct your brain to learn quickly, without the self-criticism and
obstacles that are so common when learning a new skill.
The Inner Game of Tennis
November / December 1998
We Know What Isnt So
The Fallability of Human Reason in Everyday Life
by Thomas Gilovich, 1991.
presents a wonderful overview of how the things we think we know,
we really dont. His book explores how human beings form beliefs,
especially beliefs that dont corresponds to reality.
The first section
of the book sheds light on cognitive belief processes: how we find
order even in randomness, how we infer too much from incomplete
data, and how we interpret ambiguities to suit our own beliefs.
The next section
explains how social phenomena affect belief: how motivation factors
into belief formation, how we over-use second hand information (yow!
can you say media?), and how we often fall victim to
the perceived beliefs of the masses.
The book draws
from cognitive psychology, decision making, and social psychology
to make its points. It is well thought out, and does a good job
of presenting information about how we misreason in daily life.
The bibliography is extensive, and pretty much everything he says
is well substantiated.
"part 3" takes some time to debunk alternative health practices
and ESP. I found this section interesting, because for some of his
topics, he seems to fall prey to his own fallacies. He assumes these
things are fallacious, and then explains how people use faulty reasoning
to believe that theyre true. But the fact that people are
reasoning poorly doesnt mean their beliefs arent true;
it just means that we dont know one way or another. And while
hes good at debunking, proper, well-reasoned debunking would
involve doing actual studies to support the debunking.
This last part
is especially worth reading if, like me, you are a fan of alternative
health practices. While he doesnt convince me that I should
run right out and believe only in conventional medicine, being aware
of the faulty thinking that can surround alternative practices helps
me pick and choose my beliefs more wisely.
All in all,
this is a great book for understanding many ways in which beliefs
get formed. If you dont believe me, buy the book and read
it yourself! grin
How We Know What Isnt So
The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini, 1993.
is without a doubt one of the most accessible volumes published
on recent advances in social psychology and influence. Cialdini
presents a series of specific principles which have been shown experimentally
to trigger compliance reactions from people. The book is filled
with real life examples, from Tupperware to jewelrey sales. Social
psychology differs from NLP in that it is about statistical results,
not individuals. Influence discusses techniques that, when
used with many people, works with most of them. For any given person,
however, you never know whether a given technique will work.
One of the principles
presented is the notion that putting a principle in writing publicly
produces future compliance with the principle. The principle dates
back to Chinese brainwashing techniques, in which a prisoner would
be asked to write an essay on the virtues of communism. Even though
they didnt agree with the position they were taking, the act
of writing it would produce just a little more compliance next time
the ultimate result of a true change of position.
the material in a conversational tone, with lots of stories about
the slimy compliance professionals who use these techniques to trigger
automatic buying behavior. He then presents techniques for helping
to defend yourself against the slimy compliance tactics.
for overcoming the compliance techniques must work. Cialdini himself
has committed in writing to being on the side of the consumer. By
his own principles, one would imagine Cialdinis subsequent
actions would be consistent with that position.
months ago, I received a flyer about Robert Cialdinis sales
course for business professionals. The flyer used as many of the
techniques as can be used in print, and Im sure that the workshop
itself was open to the slimy compliance professionals as well as
serious students of psychology. Clearly Mr. Cialdini has found a
way to overcome his previous, inconvenient written position of being
the book is absolutely fantastic. No NLPer should be without it.
The techniques work, and they work frighteningly well.
EVERY SERIOUS NLPer OWNS THIS BOOK. The book could go
out of print any time, now, so act fast. Besides, compared to a
$595 persuasion seminar, $9 is nothing.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
The Battle for Your Mind
by Al Ries and Jack Trout, 1993.
ever been curious about marketing, and how to make a company/product
succeed, read this marketing classic. Ries and Trout take a very
NLPish/brain-based approach to understanding how people think about
products. They note that people think in various categories, e.g.
soft drinks or safety or home products. Good marketing then attempts
to anchor those categories to names and products in the marketplace.
Even if you dont drink it, you know that Coke is the Real
Thing when it comes to Cola. As long as Coke occupies that niche
in peoples minds, theyll stay on top.
The book is
very easy to read, sprinkled with lots of examples, and made more
sense than my marketing class at Harvard Business School ever did.
Two other excellent books by Ries and Trout that I recommend are
Warfare and Bottom-Up
If you run
an NLP center, this book is a must. Ask yourself who owns the
word NLP in the markets mind [never mind legally].
Youll probably conclude that no one really own it. But there
is tremendous opportunity to own niches in the NLP market. Give
it some thought. I have a couple of specific examples, but Im
not going to list them here... evil grin
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
No picture available.
That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence, 2nd edition
by Shelle Rose Charvet, 1992.
Charvet is without a doubt the worlds best trainer of NLPs
metaprograms. Metaprograms are a linguistic model first
made explicit by Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Rodger Bailey. Metaprograms
reveal how a person motivates themself and how they process information.
For example, one metaprogram is motivation directionis a person
being motivated towards a goal, or away from something
they dont like. A persons language will tell you where
there motivation is coming from. By then matching the metaprogram
language, you can tap into their motivation. Powerfully.
book is the first really comprehensive, in-depth discussion of metaprograms
in print: she presents each pattern and its characteristic language
patterns, and explores how that metaprogram impacts a persons
motivation, workstyle, preferred jobs, and ways of interacting with
very, very deep understanding of how metaprograms interact
that draw me to Shelles work. While most NLPers are asking,
is that person being towards or away-from
right now? Shelle is asking, How does a towards,
reactive, sameness sorter perform when working for a boss
who is usually towards, proactive, options? She
touches on the effects of combinations in this book, and its
whetted my appetite for more. Maybe if we buy enough copies of volume
1, she can be persuaded to share her really advanced stuff in volume
Words that Change Minds
Shoot the Dog
The New Art of Teaching and Training
by Karen Pryor, 1985.
The Dog is an excellent presentation of the basic principles of
behavioral conditioning and how to use them. Ms. Pryor is an animal
trainer, who applies behaviorism both to animals andvery
the types of reinforcement (positive and negative), and the subtleties
of how they work: what the effects are of rewards, punishments,
The most intriguing
part of the book deals with shaping, the reinforcement
of behavior a little bit at a time, which eventually produces substantial
change. The shaping chapter was followed up by several examples
of how the same behavior could be shaped using any of 10 different
behaviorism principles. Interestingly, our societys favorite
principle, punishment, is one of the least effective ways to produce
Shoot the Dog taught me a lot about behaviorism. My only prior
exposure to behaviorism was anchoring: connecting a
stimulus with a response, and later resupplying the stimulus. This
book started there, and took me far beyond anything Id ever
learned in an NLP seminar. Its a great book.
Dont Shoot the Dog
No picture available
Art of Systems Thinking: Essential Skills for Creativity and Problem
by Joseph OConnor,
Ian McDermott, 1998.
development was heavily influenced by Gregory Bateson and systems
thinking. Systems thinking is somewhat the opposite of traditional
Western scientific thinking. While the scientific method is about
isolating parts of a system and understanding the pieces, systems
thinking is about understanding the relationships within a system,
and how all the parts affect the others. For example, a thermostat
and heater must be analyzed as a system. There is no way to analyze
the two individually and still understand the behavior of each;
they only make sense as a system.
I was so intrigued
by systems thinking that I went down the road to MIT and audited
the System Dynamics class, an extremely rigorous version of systems
thinking. It was an amazing experience.
In this book,
Joseph and Ian manage the best introduction to general systems thinking
Ive seen anywhere in the NLP community. They address the major
components of systems thinking step by step, making it very accessible.
They explicitly tie it to NLP and self-improvement techniques, but
the primary thrust of the book is learning to think about the world
The Art of Systems Thinking
Traps : Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome
by J. Edward Russo, Paul Shoemaker, 1990.
This book explores
a field known as behavioral decision theory. It introduces
several ways in which our brains seem almost hard-wired to reason
certain (illogical!) ways in different situations. For example,
when stating statistics, the way they are stated dramatically affects
our interpretation. Reporting a drug as having 10% chance
of adverse side effects will cause people to make different
decisions than if its reported that the drug has a 90%
chance of having only the desired effect. The book draws on
many everyday phenomena to make its point, and is a fun read.
If you have
prior NLP experience, heres an instructive exercise: play
around with each decision trap discussed in the book until you can
produce it in yourself. Next, examine the submodalities of the experience
and figure out what it is about the way you represent the data that
causes you to engage in the fallacy. Now the fun begins: can you
figure out alternate representations or strategies that would help
you overcome that fallacy, or never fall prey to it? If so, send
me a write-up and Ill post it on the Web site.