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Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language
Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language
by Robert J. Gula
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.11
26 used & new from CDN$ 5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to argumentation, April 13 2013
This book is a fantastic overview of argumentation which can serve either as a very user-friendly introduction or as a refreshing break from other scholarly tomes on the subject. The writing style is exceptionally clear, which can actually conceal some of the depth of material, much of which, when presented in other literature on this very subject, is obfuscated by obscure lexical items, by nominalisation, and by too frequent usage of the passive (by these authors), and presented in long sentences like this one, with lots of, um, commas. The clarity in this book is probably because the author was a teacher of English language who also published some very good books about writing, all of which emphasise the importance of clear and precise use of language.

What I particularly like is the emphasis on our human state. Sometimes we will not explore an issue because we are afraid of being proved wrong, sometimes we select what we want to believe, and of course sometimes we hide behind fallacies. Gula spends quite some time discussing these kinds of issues, issues not even looked at in many other books that cover such topics as syllogistic logic and linked (+convergent and divergent) premises, and contain a catalogue of formal and informal fallacies.

To summarise, this is an almost easy reading book that not only examines the logic of argument, but also examines how and why we argue from the human perspective, this human perspective being every bit as important as the logical perspective.

Rip it up: The Simple Idea that Changes Everything
Rip it up: The Simple Idea that Changes Everything
by Richard Wiseman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Adds flesh to the bones of other books, Nov. 23 2012
I had mixed feelings about this book and its borrowings from mainstream psychological research, largely because I feel that psychologists so often suffer from something they themselves call `Confirmation Bias'. I.e. they seem to conduct experiments to prove a `hunch' they have, then they selectively interpret the results to show that their hunch was correct, ignoring any evidence to the contrary. In addition to this they so often research topics where the conclusion is already obvious to any socially functioning human being. A critical thinker could spend a lot of time discussing the validity of many of the conclusions. And then again, in this book we are told that pretending to be a fighter pilot will improve your vision by 40% (p331). Wow. Those who need glasses can throw them away after a visit to an RAF base.

Maybe this is too cynical an appraisal of the profession. A lot of sound material has come out of psychological research and there is a lot of interesting material that is reasonably well accepted as correct and of practical value. Granted, many talented people have offered valuable contributions to the field, too many to name here. But when an experiment takes place there is usually a vested interest in the way the results turn out, and if you google many topics of research you will find a multitude of competing theories, often contradicting each other, each theory being supported by experimental results.

Re horses and carts - the William James quote used here is 'You do not run from a bear because you are afraid of it, but rather become afraid of the bear because you run from it'. This is obviously wrong. We assess the situation, become afraid (if appropriate), our body prepares for flight, and only then do we run. We first have to recognise that the bear is dangerous and poses a threat, and this recognition of danger is the central trigger. When we have assessed that it is not a harmless cuddly animal, a complex set of interactive responses take place to make us run for our lives. The assessment of danger triggers fear, and with it comes the fight-or-flight response of increased heart rate etc. The beating heart comes after the assessment and before the running because this is the body preparing to run. Alternatively, had we recognised Winnie the Pooh we would have invited him for tea, without the beating heart or running behaviour. In fact, apart from certain phobic reactions, we usually have to assess whether or not to be afraid of something and it's a bit silly to suggest otherwise. If I felt afraid of something because I was running away from it I would be afraid of my house when I ran away from it to catch a bus in the morning. I think that William James presented the idea to provoke thought and didn't intend it to be taken literally.

William James's big idea was that by concentrating not on what is true, but on what is useful to believe, we might change for the better. This is NLP!

However, in spite of my cynicism I did like this book. Okay, the idea of acting out a role is not new, back in the 50s Erving Goffman had the idea that we act out roles in life. Similarly, the idea that we align our beliefs with our actions is down to Cognitive Dissonance - Festinger 1957 - we cannot hold two conflicting beliefs, so if we are aware that our actions contradict our some part of our personality we will sometimes change our self-image to accommodate the action. Also this aligns with Cialdini's idea of Consistency - if we see ourselves as a certain sort of person, we will behave in line with our beliefs. David Lieberman points out that if you want help with something, the request is more likely to be accepted if framed `Dave, I know you're a helpful person, could you give me a hand with xxxx?' The compliment here is being taken on board to form a positive self-image, and the person will act in line with this self-image of a helpful person, so similarly, if you believe that you are a certain type of person you will tend to behave in line with this belief. Cialdini's principle seemed broad enough to accommodate our tendency to stick with a decision even when confronted with conflicting evidence, an idea Leon Festinger had voiced earlier. This also ties in with fear of loss, and with unwillingness to let go of something when an investment has been made (re the work of Kahneman and Tversky, also Cialdini 'Scarcity') - there is quite a lot of circularity here, but the emphasis gradually drifts from self-image to stubbornness and becomes less relevant to Wiseman's book. Also check out Daryl Bem's self-perception theory - we observe our own actions and make judgments about ourselves in the same way that we observe other people and make character judgments about them.

The NLP idea of modelling is all about learning how to do something by modelling our behaviour on highly competent people - back to Goffman. The 'model' can be real or fictitious, the behaviour may be an attitude, skill, or state of mind. This idea has increased relevance with the recent discovery of `Mirror Neurons' (when we observe, or even merely imagine an intentional action being performed, our own neural systems will show a trace of copying the observed behaviour), a discovery which would suggest that modelling could indeed be very useful. This NLP idea would appear to be the same as the central theme of this book, pretending facilitates becoming, although I don't recall seeing any reference to it. But didn't Wiseman `debunk self-help myths' like NLP philosophies when he wrote 59 seconds?

So to summarise, although I am a born cynic, I think that the theme is valid, and I think that there is enough good material in here to make the book a valuable addition to any self-help junkie's library. The theme isn't new, and some of the experiments cited will raise your eyebrows, and a few will make you groan, but all of the experiments will add depth to the other books you've read that offer similar advice. I feel that this book has got a place in self-help literature for this reason, and I would highly recommend it.

The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure
The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure
by Catherine Blyth
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant collection of ideas, but should have more emphasis on clarity and concision, May 24 2012
At a time when there are so many books on conversation, it is good to find one that is slightly different.
This book, rather than solely advising on etiquette, discusses types of conversation and types of conversationalists, examining a wide variety of these and offering us certain principles that might assist our conversation flow with a diverse range of personalities. There is also a discussion of various responses that we might like to use if we are ever pushed into a tight corner. This mixture of etiquette and fallacy gives us an `Aristotle meets Leil Lowndes' feel - a highly potent mixture.

If you are looking for an introduction to this material, you will probably find it rather difficult to follow because the style is a little incoherent - an ironic fault to find in a book about human communication. However, having said this, the selection of material is brilliant. If you are already fairly well read, you'll probably enjoy the book because of the way in which it pulls together many related fields.

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
by Noah J. Goldstein Ph.D.
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.71
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gain a more complete understanding of the six principles, May 24 2012
Having written what has probably become the most cited book in interpersonal skills literature, Influence: The psychology of persuasion, Cialdini assembles a team and produces Yes. This is easier reading than the earlier book, yet at the same time there are a number of stories that illustrate how Cialdini's persuasion principles can influence us in more subtle ways than those presented in `Influence'. I'll offer couple of examples from the many presented in this book:

We learn that if we tell people not to do something that everybody else is doing because they are threatening the extinction of a species/ causing global warming/ endangering their own health etc., we are in fact sending out conflicting messages, one of these messages permitting them to continue their habit on the grounds that `everybody else thinks this is okay' - social proof is working against us. We also learn that if we start a sale with a low price we will get more people bidding, and having started bidding, these people will become heavily committed to `winning' the sale. Because of this they will continue to bid as the price rises, and being driven by commitment (consistency) and fear of loss (scarcity), they will buy at a higher price.

Cialdini presents an abundance of interesting stories to illustrate how his principles work, often in a very curve-ball manner, and we are left aware of the more subtle implications of his ideas. We can understand the outrage that many people expressed when Coca Cola tried to introduce Coke with a new taste, we understand the Duracell bunny boomerang, and we are left with a smile on our faces as we are presented with more and more quirks of human nature.

This book is every bit as useful as Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Life Coaching Handbook
Life Coaching Handbook
by Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.91
33 used & new from CDN$ 8.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably THE classic life coaching book, May 20 2012
This review is from: Life Coaching Handbook (Paperback)
This is one of the books right at the centre of the modern life coaching industry, and we can understand why. In two hundred pages we have highly readable accounts of different personality types, different language techniques, various belief changing strategies, and lots more, together with numerous acronyms to assist us in memorising all this material. The book is wonderfully organised, and the writing style is crystal clear. The author is a fantastic communicator who communicates some complicated ideas very clearly and directly.

Everyone should own this book if they intend to start a life coaching business, or if their job requires people skills. In fact, the skills are also useful in personal life, particularly, I've found, in the parenting of older children.

Be Your Own Life Coach
Be Your Own Life Coach
by Fiona Harrold
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.82
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Now a classic, May 20 2012
This review is from: Be Your Own Life Coach (Paperback)
A classic within this genre. This book looks at all the key issues - confidence, motivation, charisma, self-belief, and a whole lot more, discussing these issues with a problem solving attitude, and revealing all the important philosophies of today's life coaching industry.

There is a wonderful personal touch too. For example, the author describes a client who was told to ask himself the question `Do I like me?' to which he quickly answered `no'. This question is one that a lot of us ask ourselves, and sadly a lot of us respond in the negative. But there is an antidote. In fact, the writing in this book is so empowering that I think a single read would probably be enough to change this state of mind.

Get The Edge: How Simple Changes will Transform your Life
Get The Edge: How Simple Changes will Transform your Life
by Geoffrey Beattie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.40
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5.0 out of 5 stars The real expert speaks, May 20 2012
Geoff Beattie is a giant in the field of communication psychology who has worked on scholarly textbooks; however, in Get the edge he reveals a different side to the scholar we already know.

On the pages written here, he applies his authoritative insight and knowledge to produce a book full of practical advice. In a wonderfully readable style, he addresses everyday topics such as relationships, motivation, mood control, interviews, and many more areas of our personal lives, helping us to gain the control over our lives that we need in order to find success and happiness.

I really enjoyed reading this, and in spite of already possessing truckloads of similar books, I learned a lot from what this master has written. I would also suggest looking at The Psychology of Language and Communication, because although this is a text book, it too is surprisingly readable and offers some of the best material on non-verbal communication I have read.

Unlimited Selling Power: How to Master Hypnotic Skills
Unlimited Selling Power: How to Master Hypnotic Skills
by Donald Moine
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
27 used & new from CDN$ 9.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A neat reframe of Ericksonian hypnosis, May 20 2012
This book is a little bit different to your regular sales manual, offering a new angle, largely courtesy of Milton Erickson. Here we see Erickson's hypnosis and `angle of least resistance' techniques developed and tailored to suit the needs of today's salespeople, in a set of skilful reframes. I heartily recommend it.

Having worked in sales for several years, I had to buy this book to see if I could learn anything new. I was delighted with the content, which helped me to understand those times when I watched my friends perform seemingly impossible sales.

With utter astonishment, I've sometimes witnessed friends of mine closing sales with apparently mad tactics. I have watched in disbelief, hearing them say seemingly very inappropriate things, and watching them close the sale, leaving me scratching my head and thinking to myself `What on earth was going on there? Had I said what he/she had said, the customer would almost certainly have laughed and told me that they had a bus to catch!' Well, inside this book it tells me the sorts of things that were going on, explaining what they did and how it worked - it tells me how that person closed that sale in a situation where I would have applied more conventional strategies and bombed.

Of course confidence plays a key role here, but there is a great section on self-hypnosis at the end that covers this very issue very well indeed.

Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion. Kevin Dutton
Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion. Kevin Dutton
by Kevin Dutton
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 6.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The manipulator's toolkit, May 20 2012
This is not a book about persuasion along the lines of Cialdini, nor is it about conversational hypnosis along the lines of Milton Erickson, this is about manipulators and manipulation.

The book investigates the darker side of human nature. My mother once worked in a mental hospital, and she explained how, after she had been working there for a few months, she began to wonder whether she herself were insane. Many patients spoke with convincing sincerity when they were in fact speaking nonsense; reading this book might give you a similar feeling. We are shown an alternative world, a parallel world where people are not accountable for human suffering.

Although the cohesion of the book could be put on trial, we have many strands, more strands than are presented in similar books about guiltless manipulators. All of these strands are explained well, offering us some degree of protection against the worst elements of human nature.

When you read about how highly manipulative people work, you begin to realise the feeling of power that they must feel. They understand exactly how the rest of us work, yet because they lack empathy, they can work most people in much the same way that a puppeteer operates a puppet. These people have no emotional feeling for others, nor do they possess any sense of responsibility for their actions, yet ironically they would probably tell us that this shortfall `sets them free'. Again, as I mentioned in my review of Martha Stout's book, after reading this kind of literature we will tend to find ourselves looking around and trying to put various people we don't get along with into the `without conscience' bracket. Robert Hare suggests that at some point in our lives we will run into this type of character, but not with great frequency - it won't be every other relationship ex or every other boss. It is important to distinguish the many shades of nasty human nature. Hare also asserts that diagnosis should only be carried out by those fully qualified to do so.

Knowledge is protection, and here is the appropriate knowledge, but in addition to the `dark stories' there is a wealth of interesting material on broader aspects of human behaviour. For example, we learn how we unconsciously judge people on the basis of facial features, and similarly, we learn how we unconsciously respond to various other stimuli. We are also shown a number of cognitive loopholes. In fact, the parts that discuss attraction and cognitive perception might provide ideas that we could use in a productive way.

I've given this book five stars because of the breadth of interesting information presented and because of the clarity of the explanations, but had I been looking for a well organised book on persuasion in terms of sales and marketing I would probably have been very disappointed.

The Sociopath Next Door
The Sociopath Next Door
by Martha Stout Ph.D.
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The nasty neighbour, April 10 2012
Recently, a number of books have appeared that identify a bracket of `people without conscience'. Among these we have Flipnosis, Without conscience, In sheep's clothing, alongside this book and several others. All of these books warn us that there are a proportion of evil people in society who feel no guilt, thus they become powerful manipulators who may or may not commit hideous crimes. We are presented with a number of profiles and then instructed to avoid contact with the beast as much as possible. The result is that we will scan down a mental checklist looking for these people, and our filters might be quite biased as we attempt to fit various people we have known into various brackets.

What a lot of this literature apparently fails to do is to identify the full complexity, gradations, and variations in the conditions described (except for Robert Hare's book, 'Without Conscience', which is a scholarly book that concentrates on real psychopaths).The people described in these books show a considerable variety of behaviours, and with a little reflection we can see that the situation is infinitely more subtle than we might at first think. Despite this, the sensationalism causes us to think in terms of polar extremes.

Martha Stout's book offers us a good look at the beast because she has worked with many of these people. Her knowledge enables her to very readably step inside the beast and narrate the kinds of thought processes that take place. This is done with such credibility that we almost empathise with the people under scrutiny. In fact, if she didn't also narrate the thoughts of the `normal' people inside these stories with equal skill we would probably feel rather uneasy about the author herself!

A message comes across in all of these books - and in most reviews of these books. Certain evil people see the possession of conscience as something that prevents the rest of us from getting what we really want, consequently they see conscience as a weakness that we have. They consider themselves to be above the laws and rules that govern the rest of us and hate being told what to do. Although they do not possess conscience themselves, they can gain a thorough understanding of the boundaries of conscience that govern the rest of us, hence they can become highly skilled at making other people feel guilty, and can use this skill to considerable effect. They become skilled manipulators who make people behave like puppets as they pull various strings.

Although capable of committing acts of extreme cruelty without remorse, most of these people would probably never go this far. Instead, these people will find that they can use their `power' to more productive effect elsewhere in society, and indeed they do. They might effectively bully their way right to the top. The range of options open to these people is, after all, rather large, running along a scale from murder at one end, through bodily harm, through fracturing, through intimidation, through manipulative story-telling, to verbal bullying at the mild end of the scale.

Maybe there are many gradations of conscience rather it being a simple matter of with or without. I would like to think so, and I would like to think that many of the unpleasant and manipulative people in this world DO have some moral standards. 4% without conscience? This means that I should know a dozen potential killers. I think not. Personally I think that the 'without conscience' bracket of people is actually very small, BUT, I think that the percentage of manipulative people is a lot bigger, and when you learn about the former, you will gain some insight into how the latter work. I think that different people set their moral boundaries at different threshholds, and that those with fewer scruples will tend to bully those who set about doing everything the socially correct way. My girlfriend has a highly manipulative boss, but we both agree that her boss has a conscience. When we are confronted with a real psychopath the danger is real, and obviously we have to avoid them. But I really believe that most manipulators are simply people who have found a set of behaviours that enable them to get what they want. No more: No less. In fact, rather than isolating the manipulator, could I suggest working from the other end - maybe some of us are too nice and others take advantage? However, if you know you are dealing with a psychopath I suggest you RUN.

Robert Hare's book, which is academic and completely credible, tells us that there are probably 100,000 psychopaths in New York City (population 8,214,426), which works out at about 1.2%, and he suggests that at some time in our lives (singular) we may well be at risk, either physically or financially. With this in mind, Martha stout's book is essential reading because it gives very readable accounts of the sort of risks we might face. Hare also warns that it is not for amateurs to try to give clinical assessments, so we should all avoid the temptation to label people unless we are fully qualified.

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