As a primer, reference or for regular practice, this guide contains all the tools needed for friends in need.


How Can I Help?

Ranieri and Gurkoff adapt their therapy skills to create a self-help book for readers looking to help others.

Sometimes, just being heard is all you need, claim the authors and trained therapists; “not all problems require dramatic solutions.” Of course, reading their book won’t make you a “professional helper,” but with practice, their techniques and exercises can give readers “confidence and competence in listening and responding” to friends undergoing a challenge. Friend, in the authors’ usage, stands in for family, colleagues and acquaintances. Ranieri and Gurkoff’s combined experience leads to helpful case studies on identifying and dealing with friends going through all sorts of problems. First, three basic requirements must be assessed: a mutual desire of both parties to help and be helped, a defined relationship between the two and an established time commitment. Helpfully, also included are chapters on referring especially troubled friends to professional help, as well as guidance for “leaving the helping role” with the same discipline as in taking it on. In the author’s technique, allowing friends to put their thoughts into words leads to facts, which can be analyzed objectively before pinning down specific feelings. Once those are identified, working toward a solution means establishing a goal. “Contemplating action is the antidote” to the angst generated by isolation, inaction or confusion, since action helps restore a sense of control. The authors also recommend what they call “confronting,” which, although it sounds argumentative, Ranieri and Gurkoff mean as a kind of “reality check.” Despite the foreseeable risks, they claim it’s the most effective way to end denial and evasion, while enabling your friend to see “where she’s blocking her own progress.” Although Ranieri and Gurkoff tend to repeat themselves and overexplain some of their simplest ideas, they’ve laid out an excellent game plan in plainspoken English with an upbeat tone that encourages progress. Bullet points, sidebars and questions act as convenient yield signs along the way, giving readers a moment to recall and reflect. Even if “active listening” is second nature, it “can’t hurt to revisit the basics.”

As a primer, reference or for regular practice, this guide contains all the tools needed for friends in need.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479255849

Page Count: 178

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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