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How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (Psychology) [Paperback]

Robert Kegan , Lisa Laskow Lahey
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jan 2003 Psychology
Why is the gap so great between our hopes, our intentions, even our decisions–and what we are actually able to bring about? Even when we are able to make important changes–in our own lives or the groups we lead at work–why are the changes are so frequently short–lived and we are soon back to business as usual? What can we do to transform this troubling reality? In this intensely practical book, Harvard psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey take us on a carefully guided journey designed to help us answer these very questions. And not just generally, or in the abstract. They help each of us arrive at our own particular answers that can solve the puzzling gap between what we intend and what we are able to accomplish. How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work provides you with the tools to create a powerful new build–it–yourself mental technology.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey Bass; Reprint edition (7 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078796378X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787963781
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"A genuinely 21st century book! Kegan and Lahey create a dynamic alternative to mere coasting on the momentum of the information age. Why do we know so much and yet so little lasting change actually occurs–in ourselves and in our organizations? This book doesn′t just answer the question. It shows us a way out of the problem." (Michael Murphy, founder, Esalen Institute and author of The Future of the Body)

"Lucid, accessible, and immensely satisfying, this provocative book is plainly the product of a very deep understanding of why people behave the way they do. . . . an approach to change that is at once systematic and humane. . . . breakthrough thinking. . . compelling and inspiring." (Tony Schwartz, contribution editor, Fast Company, and author, What Really Matters)

"A minor masterpiece. . . .In this simple brilliant book, Kegan and Lahey not only deal with the how of transformation. . . . they deal with the most central issue of all: how and why people (and organizations) are committed to not changing. . . . a must–read for all individuals and organizations that truly wish to grow into their own greater possibilities." (Ken Wilber, author, Integral Psychology)

"By providing extraordinary practical wisdom, this book enables us to move from organizational frustration to collective achievement. An invaluable gem." (Ronald Heifetz, author, Leadership Without Easy Answers)

"Maps both a personal transformative experience for the reader and the social arrangements that support this significant mode of adult learning. A unique and invaluable resource for adult educators, leaders in organizations, and every adult learner." (Jack Mezirow, emeritus professor of adult and continuing education, Teachers College, Columbia University)

"Leaders trying to ′drive change′ miss the deeper forces that might naturally enable it, forces which Kegan and Lahey reveal powerfully and practically." (Peter Senge, author, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization)

"This is a how–to–do–it book for reflective practitioners. Step by step, it teaches educators and leaders how to build highly collaborative, creative, and caring communities." (Mary Field Belenky, coauthor, Women′s Ways of Knowing)

"New, practical, and effective strategies for today′s core leadership challenge: how to transform behavior in ourselves and others—without the debilitating crisis that is usually needed–by seeing and transcending the forces that hold us back." (Michael Jung, director, McKinsey & Company) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"A genuinely 21st century book! Kegan and Lahey create a dynamic alternative to mere coasting on the momentum of the information age. Why do we know so much and yet so little lasting change actually occurs–in ourselves and in our organizations? This book doesn′t just answer the question. It shows us a way out of the problem."–Michael Murphy, founder, Esalen Institute and author of The Future of the BodyWhy is the gap so great between our hopes, our intentions, even our decisions–and what we are actually able to bring about? Even when we are able to make important changes–in our own lives or the groups we lead at work–why are the changes are so frequently short–lived and we are soon back to business as usual? What can we do to transform this troubling reality?In this intensely practical book, Harvard psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey take us on a carefully guided journey designed to help us answer these very questions. And not just generally, or in the abstract. They help each of us arrive at our own particular answers that can solve the puzzling gap between what we intAnd and what we are able to accomplish.How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work provides you with the tools to create a powerful new build–it–yourself mental technology that allows you to:? Diagnose your own immunity to change? Unleash the boundless energy currently trapped in this immune system? Maintain and upgrade this state–of–the–art mental technology for lasting change.The building blocks for this new technology are seven transformational languages, each permitting new kinds of thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Kegan and Lahey show us how we can use these languages–in our conversations with colleagues, friAnds, and as importantly, in the way we talk to ourselves–to transform:? Our complaints into commitments? Our blaming into responsibility? Our view of our own ineffectiveness into an understanding of its hidden genius? The assumptions --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"In the four chapters of Part One, we engage you directly in a creative process rooted in your own experience, to acquaint you intellectually with four languages for personal learning and reflective leadership." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Basic psychology for business people 26 Mar 2003
By Karl
Format:Paperback
Did you ever hear of something called "secondary gain"?
"Secondary gain" is the "hidden", possibly unconscious, reason why a person acts in a way that may, to an external observer, appear to be self-defeating. For example, Joe Bloggs frequently, and apparently sincerely, expresses a desire to lose weight - but he never does.
Why?
Because Joe has an unspoken belief that he will be safe from mugging so long as he looks big enough to wrestle a bull.
This isn't exactly rocket science. The genius of this book is that Kegan and Lahey have taken the "secondary gain" principle and repackaged it (without the usual psycho-babble) in a way that, hopefully, will appeal to the business community at large.
To this end they have developed a means by which people can quickly and easily - if they are willing - uncover what the authors call the "competing commitment" that undermines a person's declared commitment in a given situation.
For example, manager Fred Katz has the declared commitment of empowering his subordinates. Yet he briefs his people on a strictly "need to know" basis (and of course only Fred knows what his people "need" to know).
Using Kegan and Lahey's approach, described in detail in this book, Fred might discover that he has a competing commitment to gain promotion by demonstrating his indispensability. This he can only achieve, as he sees it, by keeping his people dependent on him as the one person in the department who has access to the "big picture".
Will this self-knowledge guarantee that Fred changes his behaviour?
Not necessarily. But at least he has a better understanding of his situation and is in a position to look for ways of achieving *both* commitments (empowerment AND promotion) in a constructive and non-conflicting manner.
Read more ›
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 19 Aug 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I really liked this book, most of all for much the same reasons as the last reviewer already covered.
What I'm really writing for is to point out that Patrick Merleverde's review seems to have been misplaced.
"How What You Say" does deal with change, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Gregory Bateson, and I'd guess that the review actually ties up to one of Robert Dilt's books.
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3 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tools for removing Roadblocks to change 28 Feb 2002
Format:Hardcover
I've been interested in Gregory Bateson, ever since I came into contact with his work when I studied NLP. I'm still intrigued to find out how exactly he approached science, how he thought about doing scientific work. While this book gives the reader an acceptable overview of Gregory Bateson's roots and his life, I was particularly disappointed with the section discussing his life since 1970, the year he gave the Korzybski memorial lecture. In these last 10 years of his live he published "Steps to an ecology of mind" (1972), "Mind and Nature (1977) and "Where Angels fear to Tread". Paradoxally, this author only met Bateson in 1971 and must have more details about these 10 last years, during which Bateson taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz (1972-1979) and influenced a whole generation of students at the Kresge College. These last 10 years of his life only get some 25 pages from this author. In contrast, the history of his family and youth get over 100 pages. Also, for someone who has had the chance to meet Bateson extensively in order to write this biography, we don't learn much about Bateson's real thoughts, motivations. All by all this is a pretty dry book. This book has the merit of existing, yet for me, the author missed some opportunities here.
While I recommend everyone interested in social sciences, communication, anthropology or psychology to read Bateson's books, there isn't much to learn from this book by reading 'about Bateson.'
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
145 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seven International "Languages" 16 Mar 2001
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kegan and Lahey explain that their book "is about the possibility of extraordinary change in individuals and organizations. It locates an unexpected source of boundless energy to bring these changes into being" and then assert that "if we want deeper understanding of the prospect of change, we must pay closer attention to our own powerful inclinations not [italics] to change. This attention may help us discover within ourselves the force and beauty of a hidden immune system, the dynamic process by which we tend to prevent change, by which we manufacture continuously the antigens of change." I am convinced that most human limits are self-imposed...that in Pogo's words, "We have met the enemy and he is us." The authors do indeed focus on what they call "an unexpected source of boundless energy" which significant change requires.
Throughout the book, they examine what they call "Seven Languages for Transformation" and suggest how to gain fluency in each. Four are Internal Languages: Commitment, Personal Responsibility, Competing Commitments ("Diagnosing the Immunity to Change"), and Assumptions We Hold ("Disturbing the Immunity to Change"). Fluency in these four enables us to build "The New Machine." There are also three Social Languages: Ongoing Regard, Public Agreement, and Deconstructive Criticism. Fluency in these three enables us to maintain and upgrade "The New Machine."
It is important to keep in mind that we communicate with others as well as with ourselves in three primary ways: body language, tone of voice, and content (ie what we verbalize). Decades of scientific research reveals that, in face-to-face contact, body language has the greatest impact, followed (at a significant distance) by tone of voice and then content. In voice-to-voice contact (eg during a telephone conversation), tone of voice has perhaps three times greater impact than does what is verbalized. I mention all this by way of suggesting that HOW we communicate with others and (especially) with ourselves has a major impact on behavior. Hence the importance of replacing a negative attitude. with a positive attitude. For example, to replace the Language of Complaint with the Language of Commitment.
What the authors provide is a cohesive and comprehensive process by which to recognize, understand, and then eliminate various barriers to personal and then to organizational change. In recent years, organizations throughout the world have invested hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars in the improvement of systems of various kinds. What is sometimes overlooked or at least underestimated (at great cost in terms of hours as well as dollars) are the negative attitudes of those involved in change initiatives. Kegan and Lahey eloquently and convincingly suggest specific strategies to transform those attitudes through fluency in seven "languages" within the curriculum of what they view as a "new technology" of learning. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out O'Toole's Leading Change and Senge's The Dance of Change.
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a mirror to see yourself in 22 Jun 2002
By Manny Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book does for business leaders and their teams what the 7 Habits (Covey) did for individuals back in the 90s, but it goes a step forward: it's packed with case studies. I won't add to the discussion about the Seven Languages for Transformation, since my fellow reviewers have already gone into extensive detail about them. The key concept that the book left me was the idea of diving into conflicts to have them "solve" you, as opposed to running away from them or trying to solve them. The basis for this idea has to do with the learning opportunities that a conflict has to offer, and the opportunities of self-discovery to dig out blatant inconsistencies between what we say we care about and what our language and actions actually shows.
Overall, the book is a very easy read, whether you do it in order to seriously implement its suggested methodology (and it is one serious set of ideas it carries) or just as a mirror to help you laugh at your so-called professional commitments.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tools for removing Roadblocks to change 28 Feb 2002
By Patrick Merlevede - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As author of the book "The evolving Self", Kegan is amongst the select few that have written about life's transformations. He really figured out how and why people are "committed" to resist change. Now Kegan offers tools to "transform" from one level to the next. Most of the time, when confronted to change, a little voice inside us will tell us why not the change. According to Kegan & Lahey, this voice speaks with 7 tongues. One could even say that these "voices" make us immune to change. Luckily, for each of the 7 languages, this book offers a powerful antidote.
What I like about the book is that it's practical. It includes exercises and models that you can apply in your day to day practice. As such I recommend it to people who want to get through a transformational stage themselves (as a how-to book) or who want to help others.
What I regretted is that there in no reference section nor any footnotes (contrary to Kegan's other excellent books). In other words, this book makes it seem that the authors "invented" all this, while there are several other books (including my own) that offer solutions to several of the roadblocks mentioned here. To make the reader aware that there are other books helping to get through roadblocks, I especially want to mention Donald Mitchell's "The 2,000 percent solution", which is more practical for a business context. But to be fair, this book also includes some new material I haven't seen elsewhere.
Recommended!
Patrick E.C. Merlevede - author of "7 Steps to Emotional intelligence"
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basic psychology for business people 11 Jun 2002
By Karl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Did you ever hear of something called "secondary gain"?
"Secondary gain" is the "hidden", possibly unconscious, reason why a person acts in a way that may, to an external observer, appear to be self-defeating. For example, Joe Bloggs frequently, and apparently sincerely, expresses a desire to lose weight - but he never does.
Why?
Because Joe has an unspoken belief that he will be safe from mugging so long as he looks big enough to wrestle a bull.
This isn't exactly rocket science. The genius of this book is that Kegan and Lahey have taken the "secondary gain" principle and repackaged it (without the usual psycho-babble) in a way that, hopefully, will appeal to the business community at large.
To this end they have developed a means by which people can quickly and easily - if they are willing - uncover what the authors call the "competing commitment" that undermines a person's declared commitment in a given situation.
For example, manager Fred Katz has the declared commitment of empowering his subordinates. Yet he briefs his people on a strictly "need to know" basis (and of course only Fred knows what his people "need" to know).
Using Kegan and Lahey's approach, described in detail in this book, Fred might discover that he has a competing commitment to gain promotion by demonstrating his indispensability. This he can only achieve, as he sees it, by keeping his people dependent on him as the one person in the department who has access to the "big picture".
Will this self-knowledge guarantee that Fred changes his behaviour?
Not necessarily. But at least he has a better understanding of his situation and is in a position to look for ways of achieving *both* commitments (empowerment AND promotion) in a constructive and non-conflicting manner.
Along with the main thrust of the book, the authors make a number of observations that are absolutely key elements of better management skills, including:
- sometimes it's better to let a problem ride, giving yourself a chance to learn from it, rather than trying to "fix" every little blip the moment it appears
- "The changing that people do because others make them costs an organisation a very dear price and is much shorter lived than the changing people do because they have first changed their minds"
This is a book that EVERY manager can benefit from reading, even those who think they have already achieved optimum performance.
My one criticism of the book - the reason why I have only given it four stars - is that flow of the text is regularly interrupted by lapses into poor grammar and sentence construction. And this despite, one assumes, the attentions of a professional editor.
How, for example, did this paragraph ever get into print?:
"But how exactly might we further creating and practicing this language in real life work (as opposed to merely illustrating it)?"
And a few lines later:
"Whatever salable [sic] product they have produced ..."
Surely even a basic scan of the text with a decent spelling/grammar checker would have been sufficient to pick up items like this?
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple and profound method for achievement 16 Feb 2007
By Alf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book presents a simple worksheet to help you analyze your resistance to change. Once completed, you will understand the inner conflicts that hinder your personal and professional development despite your best intentions. Of course, simply understanding these conflicts isn't enough, so the authors present methods to understand the usefulness of your resistance, eliminate your judgement around it, and harness its power for change.

This method has helped me overcome my greatest dissatisfaction at work and I've experienced amazing results. I must warn, however, that despite being simple it entails quite a bit of self observation and continued effort. But this in itself is a huge asset.

I highly recommend this book for anybody experiencing even the slightest dissatisfaction at work or in life.
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