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by Anne Linden
Crown House, 2008
Review by Kevin M. Purday on Apr 7th 2009

Mindworks: An Introduction to NLP

This book, previously published as Mindworks: Unlock the Promise Within, is designed to give the non-specialist an overview of what Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is all about. As the authors say, ironically they are not giving readers any new information but, instead, they are helping readers to use more effectively what they already know.

NLP is all the rage at the moment. The authors are honest enough to argue that NLP is simply becoming more aware of how our minds work and then using that information to modify the ways in which we respond to people and situations. In other words, it is a self-administered form of cognitive counseling combined with an injection of a large dose of intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence! That is not to denigrate NLP -- it is a highly useful way of raising people's self-awareness and alerting them to the discrepancies between how they think they are communicating with other people and how in fact other people may be perceiving their attempts at communication.

Part One, "The Meaning Of Your Communication Is The Response You Get", is a series of short chapters on various aspects of communication. There is advice about being self-reflective and a great number of extremely sensible observations about how we fail to get over the message that we wish to convey. Being trapped in one's own bubble is the basic answer but that comes in all shapes and sizes -- failure to realize that the other person is in a totally different state of mind from one's own, failure to grasp the resonance of certain words and expressions, etc. The chapter on 'backtracking' is particularly wise -- picking up on something that the other person has said, clarifying it and using it as the clarification as the basis for continuing the conversation. Failure to 'backtrack' and clarify is indeed the cause of many a misunderstanding. Part One is a thoroughly commonsense set of guidelines for better communication.

Part Two, "You Have All The Resources You Need", has rather a different slant. This section tries to sensitize us to the skills we possess but perhaps do not use to their full extent. One chapter tries to get us to flex our visual and auditory skills. Another chapter alerts us to the fact that we in fact have all sorts of skills that, because we have not named them as skills, have never been recognized as such by us. Another alerts us to the possibility of linking a particular response to a certain stimulus so as to be able to feel positive and confident in situations that might otherwise make us feel differently. The final chapter in this section sets out to make us aware of how even our posture affects the way we perceive ourselves  - and, obviously, how others too perceive us.

Part Three, "Success Is The Ability To Achieve Intended Results", is a future-oriented section. Its chapters concentrate on desired outcomes. The very sensible advice centers on a cluster of issues -- the importance of asking oneself what exactly it is that one wants to achieve, formulating that outcome in positive terms of what one does want to happen rather than in negative terms of what one wants to avoid, making sure that the desired outcome is under one's control and is not something that is unachievable for one reason or another, marshalling one's resources, and, finally, strategically implementing the route map that will get one to the desired outcome. This is all thoroughly sensible stuff.

Part Four, "You Can Turn Failure Into Feedback", is mainly about how we can rethink what we may conceive of as failure. This is partly the 'glass half empty' versus 'the glass half full' idea i.e. very few so-called failures are unequivocal disasters but often have an upside to them If we concentrate on the negative we become dispirited but if we stop wallowing in the failure, stand back a little and we look at those aspects that were a success we can change the complexion of the whole event. Again, this is all very sensible. Part Four also has a chapter on chunking. This basically about how we can change our thinking by chunking up to superordinate categories or chunking down to subcategories and thus looking at the issue differently.

Part Five, "The Map Is Not The Territory", is all about understanding how language works -- or often does not work. The most useful chapter in this part is the one that alerts us to the dangers of unspecified (and often generalized) nouns and pronouns, fuzzy verbs, nominalizations (the making of processes into a thing), polarizing words such as 'always', 'never', etc. and, lastly, mind reading. This last harks back to earlier in the book when we were reminded that the words spoken by one person are often not interpreted by the receiver in the way intended by the speaker.

Part Six, "There Is A Positive Intention Behind Every Behavior", acknowledges that we all have aspects to our personality that can sometimes result in poor behavior. However, by finding new and better ways to achieve our goals, ways that are more positively intended and received, we can put ourselves into a winning situation. The chapter on reframing, looking at the same situation but from a different and potentially much more positive angle, can help us to see things in a much better light. The last chapter in this section is particularly helpful in trying to get us to connect with our own unconscious and thus ascertain what it is that we truly want to achieve.

The last part, Part Seven, "There Are Always More Choices", is a series of chapters about how we define our choices and how we can redefine them by avoiding polar thinking, changing the perspective from which we view them, and dissolving negative emotions so that we can view our choices positively.

Some may view the book as a whole as clichéd but many others will see it as full of sound advice. NLP is not a radically new approach -- it is a mixture of psychological insights and common sense but it is no less useful for that. 

© 2009 Kevin M. Purday

Kevin M. Purday has just completed his fortieth year as a teacher and has recently returned to the U.K. after being principal of schools in the Middle East and Far East. His great interests are philosophy and psychology.