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 excellent 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 select staff on which the company’s future depended. The number of complaints related to the team’s behavior had crossed a 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 with a vast glass mirror so they could be seen by the HR specialists conducting the experiment.

They were divided into groups of two. One by one, each of the two had to start telling a story. Believing that it was about how well they presented themselves, 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. Instead, they paid attention to which of the partners of those speaking was listening to them while they were saying. 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 natural 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. In addition, 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 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.

(keep reading ↓)

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 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, 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 exact 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 tremendous 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 widespread habit, i.e., interviewees are lying through their teeth.

However, professional research tools 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 relating to people and how 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 feel she is talking to you as if through a dialogue. Of course, the things she’s talking about are 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?

By writing this book, Shelle demonstrates the art of communicating: evident, to the point, and handy. With enough practice, you can integrate your new knowledge and the interview 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. Still, it’s very possible: if you have a good enough structure, the content quickly finds its way into the correct categories. What Shelle delivers is no less than a structure of motivation: what triggers and maintains it. Her book could enter only a type of “self-help” if the rigors of the presumptions behind the system it presents were not 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 a finite number of indivisible fundamental bricks of personality, called metaprograms, are expressed in each individual’s (verbal and non-verbal) language, behavior, and attitudes. Through numerous possible combinations, all of these compose the more significant structures called “traits” (meta types) and are investigated by classical psychometric instruments. The advantage of knowing and accurately identifying these metaprograms is a good prediction of what and how a person will react in a specific and concrete situation. This makes it easier to identify the right person in the right place.

(keep reading ↓)


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 tricky. Thus, this is one of the few 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 it is straightforward 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. This happened after 1 year and a half of practice, during which I formed and corrected my skills, working for free to master the 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 also be personal because many conflicts are caused by the fact that people do not know their metaprograms and 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 worldwide. Here is Shelle in a short interview she gave Andy Szekely on her visit to Romania. The interview was given in the same framework in which I enjoyed talking 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 Charvet, “published initially in Romanian on September 22th, 2012, on Filme-carti.

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