Book Review: Getting To Yes

Book Review: Getting To Yes

Boy has it been way too long since I’ve done one of these. Sorry about that! For whatever reason, over the last couple of months I’ve found it hard to read at all, much less get through material as certainly dry as self-help genre stuff. On that note Getting To Yes isn’t generally found in the self-help section, but rather the business section. If I could make a simple and critical point however, many things in our lives are negotiations and especially our relationships and even more especially when they go south. So I’m not just going to review this book, I’m going to give you some advice on how to use it. The latter half of that sentence may have tipped you off, this is going to be a positive recommendation.

“Facts, even if established, may do nothing to solve the problem”

If I could describe Getting To Yes in a nutshell it would be to compare it to a book I’ve reviewed previously, What Makes Love Last, by John Gottman. Basically, the material in Getting To Yes is called principled negotiation, and it’s the basis for the negotiation techniques Gottman encourages you to employ to repair and retain trust, Getting To Yes is however more comprehensive. To put it another way, What Makes Love Last could be considered the application of Getting To Yes as strictly applied to romantic relationships.

I’m being a little simplistic in that statement, which isn’t entirely fair to either book, but that’s a quick and comprehensive tl;dr for Getting To Yes. On that note, Getting To Yes is a far more comprehensive explanation of principled negotiation while managing to come in a smaller, more condensed and quicker to read package. Throughout this review, I have peppered memorable quotes from Getting To Yes that I thought would have been helpful to include in What Makes Love Last.

“Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process”

Now for the cover critique, or should I say cover appreciation. Since Getting To Yes isn’t strictly a self-help section book it mercifully comes with a cover that can actually be read in public without drawing attention to yourself. Bye bye lipstick red covers, suggestive fruit, and vulva purses. You could actually be forgiven for casually reading this in a coffee shop, or on a lunch break at work, physically, sans the protection of an e-reader and its coverless covertness. What a breath of fresh air that is.

“…some people begin by announcing that their position is an issue of principle and refuse even to consider the other side’s case. ‘It’s a matter of principle’ becomes a battle cry in a holy ware over ideology.”

The prose is deadpan, dry, but well written. It’s what you’d expect from a book focused on business deals and other similar negotiations but at the very least it’s not laborious to get through or especially hard to read. The book is small in physical dimension, and while 200 pages is already fast to get through, the fact that the pages are also small and the font is still large enough to comfortably read, and adding in some white space for the generously peppered formatting, reading Getting To Yes can be done in an afternoon easily. One of my metrics for scoring any self-help book is how quickly the contents can be digested and put to use, and Getting To Yes scores very high here.

Cost is another serious metric to consider. If a certain book is 40 bucks but there are two other books for fifteen each that cover the topic more helpfully and more completely I’ll generally give the nod to the two. It’s an opportunity cost to read a book, and combined with the length and difficulty of the read it can make one book not worth reading over two or even three others. Getting To Yes knocks this one out of the park as well, usually under 20 bucks, but at the time of writing, UNDER EIGHT on Amazon for the paperback.

“If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion”

So that’s the short of it, and that’s why Getting To Yes comes with a quick and strong recommendation. There’s something else I’d like to talk about though, that really makes this book very useful for me, and highlighted by a recent catastrophic failure to use the techniques therein—though I am unsure if that would have effected the outcome of said event.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need advanced negotiating techniques about unimportant things. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between positional and principled negotiation to win the battle of the pizza toppings. You may win more battles of pizza toppings with such techniques, but losing the pizza topping battle isn’t a hill many of us are willing to die on in the first place and I hope something many of us wouldn’t even consider ‘losing’.

When an argument gets serious, consequential, and important however it also tends to be emotionally charged, and like many of you, that emotional charge on its own may rid me of the use of my toolbox of knowledge. Stress physiologically takes us out of our executive function and puts us into more primitive modes of thinking. I’m the good guy, you’re the enemy, at least, that’s what the stress is making me think. If you’re the source of my stress you’re dealing with the same part of my brain that teaches me how to deal with a hungry lion. People vary in this response, some freeze, some flee, some fight. I fight. This gets us into a bit of a circular conundrum. If the best time to use this knowledge is the time I’m least able to access the areas of my brain that contain it, how is it useful?

I don’t have a specific answer for that, but I know that for someone as prone to emotional flooding as I am, I’m going to need some sort of technique, some trick, some device, that backs me out of flooding the moment I hit it, because anything less is too late. The other participant in the conversation willing, I can postpone or even stop needless suffering while I recompose and remember all this training I’ve put myself through. I don’t have that technique yet, and I’m going to have to practice it once I come up with one. My major point here is that simply knowing this stuff may not be sufficient for you to start employing it. I flood very quickly relatively to my circumstances. General levels of pre-exisitng stress will effect how quickly each of us emotionally floods compared to our normal rate. But if your rate is generally high like mine, neither What Makes Love Last or Getting To Yes is going to help you when you need it the most. Practice detecting flooding in yourself, and in others, and have others, and particularly those that care about you the most, practice detecting flooding in you. Build a safety net, and use it, and then by all means, leverage what you learn in Getting To Yes.

Book Review – She Comes First

Book Review – She Comes First

Last week we went a little outside our normal reading with Marriage, a History, a book that was more academic than our standard self-help fare. Today we veer off the road on the opposite side. She Comes First by Dr. Ian Kerner is definitely a self-help book, but it’s a very practically minded one. The stated goal of She Comes First is to help change cunnilingus from foreplay to ‘coreplay’ and to enhance your tongue game overall. This is definitely a book marketed at the fellas, but honestly girls, some of y’all could benefit from this book too. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Out the gate I identified with the Ian’s past, though I arrived at my situation differently. I developed a bit of a porn habit early in my life and it led to a bit of a PE problem (yes, it can do that). Ian and I both upped our tongue games to compensate, and we both learned to cope with and overcome our PE later. For those of you wondering, PE is premature-ejaculation—being ‘fast’ in other words. For both of us, cunnilingus allowed us to make up for that shortfall, and remained so much more than foreplay even after we’d overcome our issues. The reason for this is simple, when done well many women prefer this to penetration, and research supports that—research Ian shares in the book.

So if I was already doing this, why pick up the book? Well that’s where She Comes First gets really interesting for me. I mentioned in my review of Come As You Are that I was looking for a book I could give the many women in my life who revealed they didn’t know perhaps everything they ought to about their bodies. Yeah, this is the part I just mentioned about it being useful for girls too. See, for about the first 100 pages, She Comes First is so much more than a ‘lick-this, tongue-flick-that’ step-by-step manual, it’s a deep dive anatomy lesson into the entire clitoral complex and how it reacts and functions during the stages of arousal. In fact, I’d say Dr. Kerner does a superior job of laying these functions out in his cunnilingus how-to manual than Dr. Nagoski did in her book aimed towards women to feel good about how they already are (Ironic as her book comes with a glowing endorsement from Dr. Kerner), and that’s why my recommendation for that book was so tepid.

I read these two back-to-back, starting with She Comes First, and while I was reading Come As You Are I thought to myself how I would have preferred a mishmash of these two books than either individually for the purposes described above. Keep in mind, the goal here was to find a book I could feel comfortable recommending to women that had basic questions about their own bodies. There are parts of each of these books that does that job better than the other and I think that’s a shame. That’s not to knock She Comes First, quite the opposite as it’s not meant to be that kind of thing at all, but it is interesting to me how it nailed the anatomy lesson better than Come As You Are did. After those first 100 pages or so it started getting harder to get through the book, as I was no stranger to cunnilingus technique. This is the part of the book where it ties all of the anatomy lesson together so that you understand the reasoning behind the ‘do this, do that’ portion. If you are however new to cunnilingus or feel like sanity checking your technique, this portion of the book should hold your attention. The smoothly flowing prose definitely made it easier to get through for me.

So yeah, let’s talk about that last thing briefly. Ian’s text flows naturally and reads easily; you’ll be turning pages quickly as a result. That makes She Comes First an easier recommendation for people with tight schedules, you’ll get through it pretty quickly, especially if your focus is on that first anatomy part. Oh, speaking of, I can hear some of you saying this from here; “I already know the anatomy of the clitoris”. Alright, so I’m sure you can name 10 of the 18 parts of the clitoral complex. If you still think you’ve got nothing to learn, cheers mate, and I’m happy for you and your wife. To be fair, I think Ian makes a bit of a stretch to hit all 18, but I’m sure most of you are surprised there’s more than 4, and there’s convincingly more than 4.

I’m really going to take the piss out of the cover though, for the same reasons I did that for Come As You Are. I would really like this genre to start taking itself seriously. Emily and I don’t even use its title anymore, we just call it the papaya book. The imagery of the papaya and banana on the cover are about as subtle and cliche as a lead pipe to the face in a TV wrestling match—all it’s missing is Rick Flair saying “Woooo!”. How many of these books are we up to for the “better off with an E-reader” rating for the covers? I think it’s three. For the love of physical book reviewers and consumers everywhere can we get some less cringe, coffee shop friendly covers? Please? Consider me a bitter clinger when it comes to my physical pages.

So do I recommend this book? Without caveat yes. I think most of us have something to learn from it, it’s cheap and a quick read so the opportunity cost of reading it is low, and as for the specific techniques I find they closely mirror my own and in that context I can definitely say they’re effective. I also appreciate the reinforcement of the idea that cunnilingus is not simply a ‘prelude’ to a type of sex that ‘should’ happen. Cunnilingus can just -be- the sex and I’ve always found it awesomely satisfying to bring Emily to orgasm that way.

Book Review – Marriage, a History

Book Review – Marriage, a History

Here at After The Yes we like to focus on things that can help you prepare for and enjoy marriage—particularly so-called traditional marriage arrangements. Today we’re going to deviate from that content, but only slightly. Meet the book that gave me agonizing thoughts about using the word traditional in this blog. For the sake of my audience I stuck with the word traditional, it’s still an easy way to convey the image of a 1950s style marriage, which is essentially where mainstream marriages have their roots. Good communication means using the right words to communicate the desired meaning, and that includes words that are technically wrong. Fact is, a 1950s style marriage is one of the quickest blips in the history of marriage customs.

Marriage, a History is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read. It captured my attention from cover to cover, and I’m still going through all the sources in the appendix. It’s well written, easy to read, and while it’s a bit long it uses all of that length in a way that nearly feels abridged. So with all that said you may be thinking that this will be an easy and solid recommend right? Well no, solid yes, easy no. Whether or not I recommend you read this book comes with a heavy dose of caveats and asterisks.

Unlike the books we’ve reviewed so far at After The Yes, Marriage, a History isn’t written to immediately address some psychological, relationship, or sexual problem. This is a book of academic interest first and foremost. I do think this book offers a way to improve your marriage in unexpected ways though. By going through the history of marriage and seeing where certain traditions began, and why they were adopted or dropped, we can build a road map of a traditional marriage that makes sense in the present day and that will make sense down the road. This is especially useful for those of you who just agreed to get married but aren’t entirely sure what that life looks like for you.

Marriage, a History clocks in at 315 pages of main content, and that normally would be a days read for me. But the effective length of the book is enlarged by how densely packed the information on each page is, and the nearly 100 pages of citations that follow the main content. This brings us to the big recommendation caveat. If your time is limited, or you have more pressing issues to get through, this book is firmly in the project category—something you casually read over months rather than finish with gusto in days. The information in this book wouldn’t be immediately useful to relationships in trouble. It’s also not going to do anything about that sex life you’ve been wanting to improve or help you get a better job. There’s a lot of ways to improve as a person and to make your marriage better and this book isn’t meant to do those things.

What it can do is help you make your marriage yours, consider the traditions you’d like to incorporate from the ground up and build a system of shared work that gives you an edge in the modern economy while preserving your other desires of married life—like children and companionship. Like I said, especially useful for those of us starting anew or starting over. Yeah, that’s actually, that’s the biggest and firmest circumstance for recommending this book. If you are starting fresh, or starting again, get this book and get it now. Read it cover to cover, have your partner read it cover to cover. Take notes, challenge assertions, look up citations.

Marriage, a History can also help solve one of the biggest issues I see with new couples looking to get together forever, they have no clue what they want their marriage to look like in 15, 10, or even 5 years. They treat it as if they were just being extended roommates, and I largely blame that on our lack of relationship education—we actually used to teach this in public schools and we desperately need it as a society.

It’s also an easy recommendation for anyone who thinks factoids like: separate bedrooms in households didn’t arrive until the mid 20th century, there are cultures that consider sharing a meal tantamount to sexual intercourse, or progressive eugenicists of the early 20th century laying the groundwork for sex ed, are academically interesting enough to read about.

That’s really all there is to this review, if you’re settled enough to be curious by all means buy Marriage, a History today.

I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have a comment or a question? Is there a topic you’d like discussed? Let me know through my contact page.

Book Review – Come As You Are

There are two kinds of easy book reviews, the hard nope and the strong recommendation. This is not one of those reviews. I’m really torn on whether to recommend Come As You Are and spend a lot of text pointing out what I consider flaws, or finding an alternative source with a content more similar to the promising title. I find however, that criticism is easier to accomplish than creative endeavors and thus feel the need to also talk about where this book does well. I took a lot of notes on Come As You Are and they’re a wintry mix of good things and critical ones. There is one note that stuck out and grabbed me on the second reading though.

The main message of this book is supposed to be about feeling normal and loving yourself, and when it focuses on that it’s good.

That’s Come As You Are in a nutshell. Unfortunately, focus seems to be an issue. That’s the tl;dr if you wanna skip the rest of this review. However, if you’re a woman and have ever felt awkward about your own body or felt like you didn’t know as much about yourself as you should—that’s a lot of you if the NYT best seller banner means anything—then you might wanna stick around for a bit.

Let’s get some booky stuff out of the way first, the easier structural things, before we wade into the pool of needful analysis. The prose is sometimes hard to read and feels like a very long reddit post. The text is suffused with isms of the internet and I couldn’t brow beat you for thinking this book was written with large contributions from a Discord group. The author actually tries to discuss ‘the Feels’ in a serious context. This is one of the things that makes the book hard to recommend. I find the read difficult in ways that aren’t related to needing to crack open a dictionary.

There are some fantastic worksheets focused on becoming more familiar with your own sexuality peppered throughout Come As You Are and some of them would even be useful to men. Oh, let’s talk about that. This book is definitely geared towards a female audience. You can tell by the pink cover with the purse on it! Come As You Are spends a lot of time criticizing cultural norms for…a lot, and then turns right around and goes with the brightest most saturated coral pink for its audience and you gotta wonder if that was on purpose or accidentally funny. More about the cover, because I alluded to this in other reviews and there’s one more book in my review pile that suffers from the same issue. Was this book meant to be read in a public place? The cover is so cringe I had a hard time reading it in front of my kids, and I certainly wasn’t going to read it in a coffee shop. That’s one more point for e-readers I guess. I’m going to continue to be a physical paper holdout though. Covers are a pretty minor gripe in the scheme of things, but I have to have fun with things as cringe as this. This is the self-help equivalent of having Fabio on the cover (Your number is next She Comes First). If you want me to take you and this genre seriously you have to show me you take yourself seriously, and putting a purse-vulva on a bright coral pink background ain’t that.

On a more substantial note, there were several times throughout the book where not being the intended audience got in the way of comprehension. Several moments of “Is that what the average woman actually goes through” and “that’s not actually why men do that…at least not this one”. Some things bordered on disbelief but I simply don’t have the female experience to say either way. I was often able to discard those frustrating moments as knowing I wasn’t the intended audience but sometimes it managed to be frustrating as I specifically set out to read this book to assess whether it could help with a frequent problem I’ve encountered over the years. I’ll be talking to my wife, or a friend, and sex will come up and there will be a “how did you not know that about your own body?!” moment. I set out for a book to point those women to and the short descriptions of this book online seemed to tick those boxes, so I picked it up.

As I said before, when it focuses on becoming comfortable with yourself it’s quite good, but it also mixes that with urges to try mindfulness meditation or some really eyebrow raising insistence to accept the health-at-every-size movement. The latter was particularly jarring as the book starts out by insisting it will take a strictly biological look at what is normally viewed culturally. The author insists on using metaphor but she seems to be not so great at it. There’s also some needless injection of politics that may turn some of the demographics that most need this information away from this book.

Reading all of that you may wonder why I am having trouble making a decision on the recommendation. Well that’s simple, the good parts of this book are really good and lack a useful alternative. Understanding the contextualization of sexual stimulus is a thing more people ought to be familiar with, the worksheets contained in the book are really useful, non-concordance is a thing people need to be more aware of, and the basic biology lesson is something I’ve found a lot of women just need and I find it downright tragic they were able to leave high-school without being exposed to it. I currently know of no alternative to get those things in one space that lacks the issues mentioned above. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I just am not aware of anything that accomplishes the biological information, actionable exercises, and focus on loving who you are physically and mentally the way Come As You Are does. There were times I also really sympathized with the author. I share her frustration about meeting women who had to learn about their anatomy from pornography, for instance.

So I guess what I’m saying is I recommend it, but with lots of asterisks. I’m going to continue looking for better alternatives to this one, but as things stand today, right now, the positives outweigh the negatives. I was intentionally vague in describing what I find to be problems above. As a reminder if you haven’t read one of my reviews before, I try to keep most of the experience of the book contained in the book, at least as far as the hard content goes—I feel I’m robbing you of individual experience otherwise. However, I felt I had to address some of the content of this book as it was central to the objections that muddy the recommendation. I would have loved to write ‘Fantastic book for women having trouble being comfortable with themselves sexually’ without all the caveats, because that’s a recommendation I’d really love to have in my back pocket when I encounter that friend that say, doesn’t use protection during her period because she ‘can’t get pregnant’ then. In that respect I’m definitely still on the lookout.

I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have a comment or a question? Is there a topic you’d like discussed? Let me know through my contact page.