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Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Paperback – August 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
After repeating his mantra—"it's not what you say, it's what people hear"—so often in this book, you'd think that Republican pollster Luntz would have taken his own advice to heart. Yet in spite of an opening anecdote that superficially attempts a balanced tone, the book as a whole truly reads more like a manual for right-wing positioning. Even in the sections where he is less partisan, Luntz's advice is not particularly insightful. For instance, his first chapter, on "Ten Rules of Effective Language," starts by instructing readers to use small words and short sentences in their communications. The least effective section in the book is the chapter on "Personal Language for Personal Scenarios," where Luntz advocates manipulative strategies for getting out of traffic tickets, boarding airplanes at the last minute and apologizing to one's wife with the "miracle elixir" of flowers. The most readable and redeeming feature is the two case studies, where Luntz demonstrates his skill as a communicator by identifying real-world communications successes and failures. Unfortunately, by the time nonpartisan readers reach these chapters, they will have already lost patience. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"Words That Work deserves an attentive read. Mr. Luntz offers a fair amount of good advice to anyone who must communicate publicly--most important, "be the message." By this he means that if you want to talk the talk and be believed, you must walk the walk--which is to say, you must mean what you say and act on it. Integrity sells.
"As the book develops, Mr. Luntz's "words that work" turn out to be portals for his clients to think hard about what they and their opponents stand for and how to align their positions more closely with what their audiences actually care about. This isn't hocus-pocus. It's just the result of hard work, careful thought and empathy--the staples of all intelligent public discourse."-- Wall Street Journal
"Dr. Luntz, you are a freaking genius. The book is called Words That Work and you're always right." -- Chris Matthews
"Few political consultants can boast as many strings to their bow at such a young age as Frank Luntz. When he was barely in his thirties, the Republican wordsmith played a critical role in devising the Contract With America, which helped Newt Gingrich's Republican party win control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than a generation....
"It is a fair bet that Luntz will play an influential role in the 2008 election, possibly in service of his old friend the former mayor of New York.
"Words That Work is Luntz's attempt to distil what he insists is his intrinsically honourable profession between two covers. To a large extent it works. Even where Luntz is protesting a bit too loudly - that negative attacks on political opponents rarely work, for example, and that, by implication, Luntz has never been involved in such skulduggery - he is always readable.
"Part lexicographic memoir, part self-help book, Words That Work shines when the accent is on the former. It is hard to think of any other political consultant in America who has coined as many effective slogans as Luntz. Some, such as his branding of the estate, or inheritance, tax as the "death tax", have remoulded conventional wisdom with devastating effect on their principally Democratic defenders.
"Others have crept into common usage less dramatically but just as effectively. Take "exploring for energy" instead of "drilling for oil", "tax relief" in place of "tax cuts", or "not giving" emergency hospital care to "illegal aliens" instead of "denying" it to "undocumented workers". Words, or rather the slicing and dicing of them to fashion our subliminal responses, do work, particularly when tried and tested in Luntz's two-hour "dial sessions", where volunteers convey their responses by turning a dial up or down in reaction to what they are seeing and hearing.
"Luntz has produced a fine book that teaches us a great deal about politics in today's America and about the minutely analysed mindset of the electorate. That Luntz's words are effective there can be little doubt." -- Financial Times
"Frank Luntz understands the power of words to move public opinion and communicate big ideas." -- Senator John Kerry
"If you can't afford to hire Frank Luntz, you have to read Words that Work." -- Steve Wynn
"One of the nation's leading pollsters and political language specialists." -- Washington Post.com
"The pollster has a long track record of identifying the phrases that make or break political and corporate campaigns . . ." -- The (London) Sunday Telegraph
"a MUST read!" -- Tony Robbins --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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This book should be a textbook used in a course offered in any communications curriculum.
lt will raise your awareness on the need to calculate which words to use and how to convey them.
Also, l found it reads easily for the most part.
Good message. Luntz is clearly someone who follows his own advice. And, if his subliminal message to the attendees was, "If you are enjoying this, buy my book ...", he clearly succeeded with me - I ordered it during the conference.
Here is a bit of criticism. Hearing Luntz talking about identifying the appropriate words that work is more enjoyable than reading about it. But, it's not that his writing style is bad - it's just that he is so strong verbally that I think I held him to a higher standard. Actually, he imbeds humor, questions and "conversations" with the reader that make the pages flow. And, a lot of good old common sense too. Had I not seen him in action, I would not have made this observation.
I know there is some question between the difference between words that communicate vs. words that manipulate. There is a definite fine line here, particularly within the political arena, of which much of this book is devoted. Still, one earlier reviewer ascribed this to the more broadly defined "words that persuade," and I think this is fair.
Beyond all the stories, case studies and personal experiences involving products and products (the majority of the book), however, there is a primer in communication skill development for the reader. He tells readers which words work within their daily lives, be they needed to avoid a speeding ticket, negotiate with a spouse, or make the big presentation to the boss (followed by a forward looking request for a raise). In other words, I found that Luntz' book was much more than "words that work," it was about helping perceptive readers to become "people that work [more effectively, productively, successfully]."
Let me end by asking interested readers how they might approach their next big presentation. After reading this book, they are far more likely to begin with, "Imagine a working environment in which everyone spoke so simply, so clearly, so credibly, so consistently, so aspirationally," that everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and why and when ..."
Much more powerful.
This book reflects the popular culture. The examples are real and current. It is brain food for people who choose to improve by thinking about and using words that people hear. Highly recommended.
Is the book about manipulating? Sure it is. But, fact is, any time you use words to sell an idea or a product, you're manipulating --- or at least trying to do so. A better word would be "persuasion."
As the author says, "It's not what you say that matters. It's what people hear." And that's true. It never fails to amaze me how easily people misread what they're told or what they hear or read. Why? People don't really listen. People are thinking their private thoughts. They are thinking what they'll say next. They're not listening to you. So they're hearing sound bites.
The communicator who uses small words and short sentences and the right words will be able to get these folks to take the action they want them to take.
If you communicate to convince others, you should read this book. It's not the best written book I've read. It's not the best book on this topic. It's not a great book. And there are errors. Errors in wording and errors in fact.
For example, the author says that people do not buy things from long gone decades. They prefer items of today. Well, that's not really true. There is a large market in fountain pens from the twenties, thirties and into the sixties. I know. I collect them. The market for Parker 51 pens from the forties is keen. So I don't buy that statement.
But the book is a decent read. It will help anyone who needs words and needs to persuade people.
If you want to become a better sales person, a better pastor, a better politician, a better leader, or a better communicator then buy this book. If you have the greatest idea in the world but can't tell people what it is, it's worthless. If you have a vision but can't get other people to follow, you will never lead.
For me, this book boils down to one word: Results.
Frank Luntz writes a great book to help anyone who wants to communicate better.
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