Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet – book review

Merry Christmas everyone! Today, besides being Christmas, it’s the birthday of a brilliant trainer who immensely contributed to my life, Shelle Rose Charvet. With this opportunity in mind and with the best wishes from the redaction of filme-carti, where I initially published this article in Romanian, I am publishing my review of Shelle’s great book, which got re-edited this year to the 4th edition.

The 80’s. Somewhere in the USA, a large airline urgently needed to make recruitment and a selection of staff on which the future of the company depended. The number of complaints related to the behavior of the staff had crossed any line and the company suffered significant losses. One single HR (Human Resources) specialist has committed to solving their problem in one day. The price? In cash, 10,000 dollars. An even more exorbitant and bold amount, considering that this happened 30 years ago. Anyone who would have dared to make such a request had to be either a genius or a madman. How did he select the staff? He aligned all the candidates along with a huge glass mirror so that they could be seen by the HR specialists who were conducting the experiment.

They were divided into groups of two. Each of the two, one by one, had to start telling a story. Believing that it was about how well they presented themselves, of course, everyone put a lot of effort into telling the story. However, those from HR were not interested in that. In fact, they did not listen to the story. They did not even look at the speaker. What they paid attention to was which of the partners of those who were speaking was listening to them while they were speaking. They hired only those who were listening. Soon, the complaints about the staff were reduced to zero. This story could be a simple anecdote if it had no real science to back it up.

Shelle Rose Charvet could easily be considered one of the best HR experts in the world. Among her clients, one mentions The World Bank, The Bank of France, The Olympic Committee, Deloitte, Federal Reserve Bank (the largest private bank in the USA), IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, CERN, and UNESCO. She founded an international HR consulting and training school that trains specialists from around the world.

Her 1994 book (the second edition was published in 1997) is not less than one of the most valuable instruments possible for those who prepare employment ads and interviews. It is one of the 5 fundamental books that any HR specialist must have by the bed and on their desk, day and night until they memorize the principles and landmarks which it presents. It was also included by the Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming in Romania (ARONLP) on the list of NLP elementary bibliography by BookBlog.ro in “The tour of your career in 10 books”, by the Romanian Training Institute (IRT) in the list of the books recommended to trainers, on the list of the books recommended to freelancers.

Shelle Rose Charvet
Shelle Rose Charvet

Similarly as Lori Davila and Louise Koursmark’s book “How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time” is a practical summary of the behavioral interview, in vogue in the USA in the 60s-70s, Words that Change Minds is a summary of the researches performed in the 80s and beginning of the 90s about metaprograms.

I had the honor of speaking to Shelle face-to-face in 2006. That 30-minute meeting has changed my life. I understood a lot then, and the answers she gave me, not only in the content but also in the way she told them to me, remain an example of excellence in human communication to this day. She has laid the foundation for redefining the concept of
respect for me, including the need to speak the other person’s language.

Her book, completed and amended in 2019, extensively explains a simple system of classifying language and behavior with the help of very precise questions that lend themselves to a quasi-structured interview. The answers to these questions can take from 15 minutes to one and a half hours, and at the end of it, the consultant who asks the questions will know the main motivational levers of the respondent in the context aimed at. This is a very big promise, considering that:

  • the interview is one of the weakest predictors of performance in a company of a potential employee,
  • motivation has been researched thousands of times and few researchers have managed to structure it satisfactorily
  • some candidates or even some crafts have a very common habit, i.e. interviewees are lying through their teeth.

However, professional research tools that were built on the methodology and classifications in the book confirm on representative country-wide samples (tens of thousands of people in total) that this promise is valid.

Words that Change Minds is one of those few books that change one’s perspective through which one relates to people and the way one chooses to communicate with them. The presentation style is friendly, accessible, and funny. Shelle is not a researcher, but she knows how to talk to anyone and everyone. Reading her book, you have the feeling that she is talking to you as if through a dialogue. The things she’s talking about are actually much, much harder, and one can get them with a lot of practice, but she invites you, at least in the pages of her book, to make some first steps and she provides you with tools. It’s all so easy when you are explained to in your language, isn’t it?

Shelle demonstrates the art of communicating including through the way she writes this book: clear, to the point and handy. With enough practice, you can integrate your new knowledge and the interview that she proposes to you in an ordinary discussion, without the interlocutor having the idea of being interviewed.

I know that for many, all these promises sound pretty incredible, but in reality, it’s very possible: if you have a good enough structure, the content easily finds its way into the right categories. What Shelle delivers is no less than a structure of motivation: what triggers it and what maintains it. Her book could certainly enter only a category of “self-help” if the rigors of the presumptions behind the system that it presents had not been tested psychometrically.

Words that Change Minds is based on the metaprogram theory, one of the few in neuro-linguistic programming that has scientifically been explored, and has passed the statistics tests with flying colors. The theory states that there is a finite number of indivisible fundamental bricks of personality, called metaprograms, which are expressed in the (verbal and non-verbal) language, behavior, and attitudes of each individual. All of these, through numerous possible combinations, compose the larger structures which are called “traits” (meta types) and are investigated by classical psychometric instruments. The advantage of knowing and accurately identifying these metaprograms consists of a good prediction of what and how a particular person will react in a specific and concrete situation. This makes it easier to identify the right person in the right place.


Why is this approach absolutely revolutionary? Firstly, due to precision. Then, because of the fact that it goes beyond the façade effect, which is quite difficult. Thus, this is one of the few types of interviews, in which it does not matter much whether the respondent is lying, because the interviewer does not necessarily follow the content, but the patterns of thinking, language, and behavior. Thirdly, because it is very easy to learn. The author even includes the interview questionnaire at the end of the book.

Of course, to get this kind of performance, it takes more than reading the book. Therefore, for those who want to professionally master the tools in this book and build their long-term skills for use in a professional context, there is a training called LAB Profile (Language and Behavior Profile), which is one of the psychometric instruments for evaluating the human resources, based on metaprograms. The training costs differently and can be done for a cost ranging from 700-800 Euros (in Romania) to 3000-4000 Euros in America or Europe. I attended this training and recovered my money from working with only two clients. It is true, that this happened after 1 year and a half of practice during which I have formed and corrected my skills, working for free to master LAB Profile at a specialist level.

However, the book changed my life even before I was trained. It’s one of those rare books that causes the “aha” you need to enlighten. The transformation can be one at a personal level as well because many conflicts are caused by the fact that people do not know their metaprograms and they do not know how to reveal others’. Thus, there are also solutions to the fact that the straws in others’ eyes always have different colors, which the author invites you to discover.

LAB Profile was the first specialized application presented outside the NLP community and was designed by Ross Stewart and Rodger Bailey in the early 1980s. Later, they handed it over to Shelle Rose Charvet, who devoted her life to promoting this system around the world. Here is Shelle in a short interview she gave to Andy Szekely on her visit to Romania. The interview was given in the same framework in which I had the pleasure to talk to her.

Marcus Victor Grant

Written by Marcus Victor Grant in 2012. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Cuvinte care schimbă minţi, de Shelle Rose Charvetpublished initially in Romanian on September 22th, 2012 on Filme-carti.

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