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Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships & Your Results

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What if one of the most powerful avenues to your achieving a balance of peacefulness and productivity - defined here as happiness - at home and at work, is so close that you may have missed it? What if by taking a new look here you can open truly unprecedented possibilities for yourself and your effectiveness, the quality of your relationships, as well as your emotional and physical well-being? And what if an incredible variety of your experiences and results ? personally and professionally ? have for years been connected to this, whether you?ve been aware of it or not? This is the promise of this compelling new book by veteran consultant, certified personal coach and seminar leader Chalmers Brothers: A new way of understanding language provides a powerful new foundation and a new set of tools for literally designing your life, at home and at work and everywhere in between. This is especially relevant for anyone seeking to break free from repetitive and ineffective patterns, actions and outcomes. It?s immediately valuable for everyone for whom building and maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships is important. And it?s particularly useful for leaders, managers, administrators and anyone else who "gets paid to have effective conversations!" In this book, the author leads you on an eye-opening exploration of yourself, your language, your conversations and their connections to your physical and emotional well-being. He introduces you to an emerging and thought-provoking way of thinking, one with very old and very new roots. You will see clearly that our collective common-sense understanding of language as merely a "tool for communicating" or "a way we describe how things are" is only a small and limited part of the full story. Having nothing at all to do with grammar, sentence structure or nouns and verbs, this book instead takes you on a journey through the many ways in which your internal and external conversations ? fully inter-twined and braided together wi

295 pages, Paperback

First published August 31, 2004

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Chalmers Brothers

4 books1 follower

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5 stars
90 (51%)
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52 (29%)
3 stars
24 (13%)
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6 (3%)
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4 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
41 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2020
This is my second reread of the book. Its amazing how much I missed the first time that I read this book because I wasn't in the right mood space for it.

This was a difficult read because I found myself stopping so often and thinking about a paragraph and trying to understand how that has applied in situations that I've been in, or deciding whether I agreed with what the author was saying. I also find that reding a chapter each time, then giving myself a few days to ponder its contents worked much better than trying to read it through in a sitting or two. The book is short but crammed full of information.

A proper review will follow soon, once I'm able to go through notes to extract the most essential takeaways. There're so many things that I'd like to include but that would make this review way too long.

I've already been able to apply the new distinctions in language from the book in various situations. Given how much of human society and being human is rooted in language, taking a step back and gaining this new understanding of language is well worth the time.

I'd rate this 6 stars if I could. Recommend this without hesitation to anyone.
266 reviews4 followers
December 5, 2020
I felt this book brings together the elements of self awareness and self management well. It highlights the importance and impact of language - both internal self talk and external language we use to communicate with others around us. In the authors words, “We claim that language is not simply a passive tool for describing how things are. Instead, we say that language does much, much more. Yes, we describe with our language. Yes, we communicate with our language. But with language we also create, we generate, we do things, we take action, we put in motion events and situations that would not have been put in motion had we not spoken.”
Profile Image for Becky.
1,117 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2017
I found this book difficult. It has some things that I've run into with other parts of my coaching training, but I really had to work to read it. Maybe after I've been exposed to other things it may be more approachable, but for now it wasn't.
Profile Image for Tucker.
Author 24 books172 followers
March 27, 2016
Good insights into language as creative act that shapes how we view and understand the world. The book emphasizes that some statements are facts, others opinion. There are also declarations, requests, offers, and promises that affect how we behave and how we are perceived and received by others.
Profile Image for Kelli.
88 reviews
January 7, 2018
A great book with a lot of insightful information, but it is hard to read. Nonetheless the information in the text is invaluable. If you’re looking to be happier and to learn how your language plays a huge role in your happiness then this is definitely the book for you. It will also help you to be a more effective communicator. My leadership coach recommended it to me.
1 review
January 7, 2020
Among the top 10 books of my life

It has exponentially increased my ability and power to see and listen to the world at a humongous scale. Thereby, it has opened and created a new, happy and blessed me.
Profile Image for Danielle Janzen.
84 reviews
June 9, 2017
A little "heady" - I had to be in the right mood to read this one or else it would go right over my head. Overall, great book for managing a team or communicating with others.
Profile Image for Sam Aparicio.
25 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2022
This one didn't resonate with me like Chalmers' other "...Pursuit of excellence" which I see as a transformative business book.
Profile Image for T.K. Coleman.
1 review1 follower
September 14, 2013
Language and the pursuit of happiness contains a variety of practical thoughts on the ways in which our awareness of key conceptual & linguistic distinctions affects the experience of perception and the actions we take/effects we create as a result. The main premise of the book is that language is not merely passive and descriptive, but also generative and creative. According to Chalmers, we "speak our world into being" by concealing, disclosing, modifying, and arranging our possibilities based on our assessments, assertions, declarations, requests, offerings, commitments, and agreements. From helpful suggestions on how to improve one's ability to say "no" to philosophical insights into the subjective nature of judgments which we sometimes assume to be THE Absolute Truth, this book offered some stimulating food for thought as well as many pragmatic communication strategies that can be used to improve personal and professional relationships.

Many of the analogies, distinctions, stories, and suggestions were thought-provoking and user-friendly.


The role that moods, physiology, and prior assumptions play in our efforts to communicate, change, learn new things, and find creative solutions.

Big emphasis on the "work/doesn't work orientation" and it's advantages in relationship to the "right/wrong orientation."

Really good examples regarding how our not knowing certain distinctions can render us unable to take actions which would be easy and obvious if such distinctions were present.

Informative section on "Learning" and a detailed breakdown of the various attitudes/states that aid and inhibit learning.

Personal takeaways:

I've learned...

how to reduce misunderstandings by being specific in my requests, offerings, and agreements.

how to distinguish between "promises broken" and "unspoken expectations unmet."

how to give others permission to constructively criticize me without compromising my own need for respectful communication and positive reinforcement.

how to exercise greater influence in molding and managing my "public identity.

how to use language in a way that allows me to create frames and contexts that increase the odds of me achieving important goals.

how to more effectively question my assumptions and notice distinction between events and the stories I tell myself & others about those events.

how to incorporate my physiology into the learning process.

how see my personal experience of "ignorance" and "incompetence" in ways that are a bit more empowering.

how to create stories that serve me and modify ones that do not.

Reading difficulty level:

On a scale of 1-10, I rate the difficulty level at 7. It was very abstract and academic in certain parts and down-to-earth in others.
Profile Image for Deborah.
14 reviews7 followers
December 27, 2012
Swashbooked, 10 minutes + discussion, Christmas 2012, with @ipreuss.

Why I picked it: I heard about it when I studied coaching with Newfield Network. It's an important book on one of the three key Newfield concepts (Language, Moods & Emotions, Body).


Font: really sucks

p iii:
* "A word about Paradigms: ... I am not claiming they are "the right way" or "the only way" or "the truth"..."

p iv: How the book is structured:

Ch1 You can't change what you don't see (being "at choice" about making changes in our lives)

Ch 2: Language - the tool we cannot put down. (a new way of understanding the phenomenon of language)

Ch 4, 5, 6, 7, 9: Models for perceiving and changing our use of language

Ch 10: The bigger picture and looking ahead

Ch 8: Happiness, Language and the Present Moment. (on "being present" in conversations, and how living in the past or future affects the moods of our present conversations, making them more difficult).
* stress is reduced when we remain in the present, because it is the only place we can influence change
* a method and samples of self-talk that can help move from past/future into the present
* Being present and Meditation.

Interesting concept:
* first order learning: observe, do, check result (then change actions going forward).
* second order learning: observe, do, check result (then plan to *look* at it differently next time). I.e. create not only new actions but new stories for ones self that are more helpful.

* hard to tell what it is about from table of contents.
* wordy.
* contains models used in teaching ontological coaching.
* key concept: language is not just descriptive, but generative and creative. We create new stuff when we use language. So learn to use it consciously, being deliberate about what we want to accomplish with it / create. We create stories and the stories create actions. Are our stories working? (creating the actions that help us reach our vision, goals?)
* concept of 2nd Order Learning seems an important part of retrospectives - "gathering data" is essentially surfacing, sharing our stories - which we may never otherwise tell out loud - and then offering an opportunity to change our stories, create a mutual shared story. To improve retrospectives, Chapter 8 seems interesting.


Rated it 3 stars for now. Need to read more to know if it can go higher.

Deb: Keep it around as an Ontological Coaching reference text. And read chapter 8.
Ilja: already got surprisingly much out of it, want to read more. (but font is disgusting, which is a good reason to get it on Kindle, even tho Ilja was prepared to read it on paper.).
Profile Image for Manish.
793 reviews46 followers
July 8, 2020
I've been dabbling in Leadership Coaching as a practice. So of late, books on language and its connection to our neuro-biological systems have been fascinating.
One key point that I took out from this work : "Pain is biological. Suffering is linguistic".
5 reviews
January 21, 2021
I really enjoyed this book, which describes the Ontological approach to language. I felt that it provided great explanations of the linguistic distinctions (assessments, assertions, declarations, requests, offers, etc). I had a basic understanding of the Ontological approach to language when I read this book, and I found that it greatly assisted me in expanding my knowledge of the linguistic distinctions.
Profile Image for Mike Porter.
40 reviews
September 27, 2012
Excellent. Helpful. A clear exposition of how language is "the tool we cannot put down" and how the use of language creates our reality. Brothers does a very readable job of synthesizing the work of many others. The book is written in a way that mirrors his consulting practice, so it is a hands on style and not theoretical. I use this book as a reference in my consulting work.
1 review4 followers
December 19, 2017
Why language is important ? its all about to know the difference between Assertions, Declarations and assessments. Which forms our personality , how we deal with the internal world and out side. . .how the language affects our physical and relation ship health
Profile Image for George.
19 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2015
One of the best works for understanding Ontology and distinctions that help you create in life rather than react!
Profile Image for Jurgen Appelo.
Author 9 books888 followers
December 11, 2012
Godawful text full of platitudes and hyperbole, presenting some obvious and debatable opinions as (of course) a Paradigm Shift, in a writing style that worked on my nerves.
2 reviews
April 2, 2013
As a leadership trainer who specializes in conflict and communications, I am finding a number of useful ideas that support some of the training That I aLready do.
Profile Image for Dimitris Hall.
365 reviews55 followers
January 25, 2018
If we are indeed made in the image and likeness of God (however we understand God to be), and if God’s word creates and generates, brings forth and manifests... why shouldn’t ours?

Let me tell you this first: I've read quite a number of self-development/philosophical books, but Langauge and the Pursuit of Happiness went from 0 to 100 and made it to my shortlist of self-development favourites with especially characteristic ease.

This book was first recommended to me and the rest of the participants as further reading after the conclusion of the Advanced Synergy training, or Choice, I had in Bulgaria in Sep. 2016.

Indeed, I recognised much of the 'special vocabulary' or 'mantras' used in this family of self-development trainings here:

'You are not the conversations you have become.'
'If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.'
'I’d rather be right than be happy.'
'It's not have-do-be, it's actually be-do-have.'
'We are not human beings, we are human becomings.'

Reading all this felt really comfortable to tell you the truth and took me to a similar space of self-deconstruction that Choice did, a program which I could tell from the very first minute would be life-changing. Going through Choice of course was unexpectedly tough and very much NOT comfortable, but the lasting effects on me have inevitably made me look back to it with tender feelings, and perhaps comparing the pleasant self-deconstruction I could go through on my own pace with this book to the slap in so many of levels of face that Choice was could be being a bit unfair to the latter. Anyway, the trainers at Choice admitted that this book had been very influential for them, and having read the book now, I can completely see why.

First off: "Language and the Pursuit of Happiness", by Chalmers Brothers. The title of the book is so broad, one could very well think it impossible for the broadness and genericness of the subject matter to be satisfactorily conveyed. And Chalmers Brothers -- is that a single person or is it THE Chalmers Brothers? I got some internal giggles from thinking about that, I admit.

Turns out: the subject matter is amazingly portrayed, and no, it's a single person, actually a man without any background in psychology or anything, though with a lot of experience in leadership development, relationship-building, workplace culture and accountability workshops and such. This book was his first book, and I thought it was so clearly written, jargon-free and easy to read, I was almost shocked. That is to say: I was captivated. Mr. Brothers captured in written form a living example, or as much of a living example as a book can provide, of his own theory.

His theory is that, contrary to popular belief, language doesn't just describe the world -- it's not just a tool used for communication. Instead, he proposes four more beneficial, certainly more powerful claims about language:

1. Human beings are linguistic beings. We “live in language.” All of us, all the time.

E.g. We make up a story about ourselves and the world, hold our stories to be the truth and forget that we made them up. We confuse the events themselves with our own explanations. "The minute I begin living as if my explanation of an event is the event... I stop listening").

"Consider if someone walked into a crowded room full of people of many different ages and many different social and cultural backgrounds, and said “Well, I can see how all of you folks are obviously influenced by how you see things by your age, race, gender, life experiences... how your perceptions are necessarily “filtered” by your travel – or lack of travel – and upbringing, educational experiences, and so forth. I’m sorry you have to live with such obvious limitations... I, on the other hand, have been blessed with Cosmic Objectivity! Somehow I was born with the capacity to see things as they truly, really, objectively are... yes, I’ve been blessed with privileged access to the Truth... how excellent it is for me to have such unfettered access to the way things really are!

"How ridiculous. This, of course, is nonsense. Everybody is interpreting. Everybody is creating explanations."

2. Language is generative and creative (vs. passive and descriptive).

I.e. our conversations with other people is what creates relationships with them. Change the content, change the relationship. Also, through what we say (and by extension, what we do), we create a public profile for ourselves, most of which is impossible to be conscious of -- although certain substances can make it slightly less impossible. Or so they say.

And despite how most of us lead most of our lives -- that is, not living in honesty -- Mr. Brothers asks:

"Do you have anyone in your life who will give you 'the straight poop?' That is, someone who will share with you their honest impressions about you and your actions and their impact on others. Is this a valuable person to have in your life? Most of us say, yes indeed..."

3. Language is action. To speak is to act.

"If I make a request, and you say Yes, we’ve got a promise. If I make an offer, and you say Yes, same thing. And with this promise, tomorrow is different. Today is different. We have just put in motion events and actions that would not have been put in place had we not spoken, had we not make that agreement... The key interpretation we offer is that for humans, for us, our language is how we coordinate the coordination of action."

4. With language, we make visible that which was previously invisible.

Mr. Brothers' example here is extremely powerful:

"Let’s say last night I walked outside of my home and it was a beautiful, clear night. I looked up and saw “a bunch of stars”. That’s what I saw when I looked into the sky... a bunch of stars. Let’s say that this morning I had a conversation with my good friend Les, who happens to be an amateur astronomer. Les has this book and he says “Chalmers, some of what you’re seeing up there are actually planets... they have a different look and they shine in a pale red or yellow tone... and some of what’s up there are called nebulae, which are the remnants of huge explosions of stars millions of years ago... there’s a cloudy edge of gas formations... also, there are man-made satellites, which have a different look still and actually can be seen to move, slowly, across the sky...

"Now, tonight, when I go out and look up at the night sky, what do you think I might see? Last night I saw “a bunch of stars” and the sky is the same, and tonight, when I look up, what might I see? That’s right... I might see some planets... some nebula... some satellites. Question: Where were the planets, for me, last night? Where were the nebula, for me? Last night, they didn’t exist – for me. They were out of my awareness, and tonight I see them. My world has changed. My possibilities have changed. Planets... nebula... and satellites are linguistic distinctions, in the domain of astronomy, that I acquired in my time with Les. And once I acquired them – once I learned them – I opened my eyes upon the same world, and I saw something new. I became a different observer. I saw what I didn’t see before, and this is a powerful phenomenon to begin to notice!"

I'll give you a very quick run-down of the chapters so together with all the aforementioned you can more or less get a feel for how the rest of the book goes:

Chapter 1: You Can't Change What You Don't See
Chapter 2: Language -- The Tool You Cannot Put Down
Chapter 3: What's Learning Got To Do With Happiness? And What's Language Got To Do With Learning?
Chapter 4: Listening, Hearing, Beliefs & Results
Chapter 5: My Favorite Model: Observer - Action - Results
Chapter 6: An Artificial Separation: Language / Emotions / Body
Chapter 7: We Speak Ourselves Into the World
Section 7.1: Assertions & Assessments
Section 7.2: Declarations
Section 7.3: Requests & Offers
Section 7.4: Promises, Commitments, Agreements
Chapter 8: Happiness, Language and the Present Moment
Chapter 9: Have-Do-Be or Be-Do-Have
Chapter 10: The Bigger Picture & Looking Ahead

Apart from the crystal clarity of the book, I loved how most of the chapters had a Summary: Main Points and New Interpretations and a How-To: Possibilities for Taking New Action sub-section. It really makes it much easier to skim through the book again and revise everything I learned so that it sticks better. Mindful repetition is an important learning tool (perhaps THE most important), after all.

I've written a lot already. I'm just so excited that I discovered this book and would like to share it or even discuss it with other people. I think it has a very powerful and extraordinarily well-articulated message (a combination which is surprisingly hard to find) and I believe that many more people could benefit from discovering it, reading it and making it one of their own new favourite books, too.

And if you prefer videos over lengthy summaries, here's Mr. Brothers speaking at TEDxBocaRaton in 2014 about "How language generates your world and mine" -- a great summary for the book if this review of mine has once again inadvertently slipped into TL;DR territory. In which case, that'd be in my blind spot/public image quadrant, so would you give me the 'straight poop' and let me know? Thanks!

Oh, and remember: making the powerful declaration that you don't know, and that you're a beginner in something, will get you far.

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