Just Listen

If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.

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If you are in a business where effective interactions with people is an important part of your success, you should read this book. Mark Goulston, is one of those rare analytical people, who can organize, present and make sense of topic as amorphous as human interactions. “Just Listen” is filled with fun stories and is really easy to read. It is organized in 30, 6-10 page chapters that are dripping with actionable insights.
The book starts with an explanation of the persuasion cycle:

buy-in

The first and the key component is to get people to listen to what you have to say. Mark explains mirror neurons and getting them aligned is key to listening and communicating.

Goulston then talks about 9 core rules that are right on the mark:

1. Move yourself from “oh F#@& to OK”
2. Rewire yourself to listen
3. Make the other person feel “felt”
4. Be more interested than interesting
5. Make people feel valuable
6. Help people to exhale emotionally and mentally
7. Check your dissonance at the door
8. When all seems lost bare your back
9. Steer clear of toxic people

This is followed by a set of useful tools that are powerful individually but if organized and used in situations, can help you deal with tough situations. One of my favorite tools “Power thank you”/”Power apologies”  by itself is worth the price of the book.

Goulston wraps up the book with some great case studies that are fantastic examples of applying the tools in the book. On a personal note, I had a chance to apply these tools in a particularly sticky situation related to when my parents came over from India, for the summer, which setup the classic mother-in-law and wife issues.

“Your mother has an opinion on everything and she likes to share it”, my wife said one night.

A typical red-blooded Indian male would typically get defensive or passive aggressive or feel trapped in this situation but I calmly un-clipped the empathy tool from my tool belt.

“Yeah, she has a lot of opinions”, I started.

“Yeah and she get in the middle of everything. Today she was telling me about how to raise kids, when she does not even understand the personality they have and the environment they are growing up in.”, she continued.

“The other day she was telling me about how to make chicken and she is a vegetarian”, I empathized.

I could see that she was pleasantly startled.  After a few more minutes of this, she exhaled and thanked me for listening.

“I can see that she has a lot of great ideas, but I wish she would just mention them at the right time but again she is visiting after a long time and hasn’t had the context so I should be more patient”,  she concluded.

She said that she feels so much better because she can share her issues with me as I thanked Mr. Goulston for his brilliant work and promptly ordered the rest of his books.

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