Just listen – discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone

  “Just listen – the secret of getting through to absolutely anyone” by Mark Goulston, is both entertaining as it is life-changing. It will be your guide to gaining a new skill set that will help you turn unreachable people in your life into your allies, devoted customers, loyal colleagues, and lifetime friends.

          Mark Goulston believes that “we can heal the world, one conversation at a time”. The key is not talking at people but listening to them.

 

         The secret to reaching by listening to anyone

 

          Some people seem more inclined to get through to people than others. In fact, getting through to people is an art and a science that can be learned and practiced by anyone. Even though the process can seem difficult, at times, the results make it all worth it.

 

Who’s holding you hostage?

 

          Whenever you are stuck in a situation where you can make people act the way you want them to, you’re the hostage. On the one hand, you’re a hostage because of the resistance of others, on the other, because of your own inability to act and get through to them.

          The more you try to persuade, argue, and push someone, the more likely it is for them to push back. Hostility rises and the situation escalates.

          What you want to do in any such situation is to listen, ask, mirror, and reflect back to people what you’ve heard. Much like Chris Voss in “Never split the difference”, us mirroring to get information. They are a natural way of repeating the last three words of the other person in order to get information without causing hostility. Chris also teaches us to use labels, summing up what the other person is feeling and repeating it back to them. Mark, just as Chris, feels that, by doing this, the other person feels heard and understood.

          Mark Goulston emphasizes that his technique is similar to the technique hostage negotiators use when it comes to reaching the people, who don’t want to listen to you. In the book, Frank’s story helps us understand this more clearly.

         

Going from resisting to listening

 

          In Frank’s story, Mark’s technique is a combination of Chris Voss’s technique and Robert Cialdini’s technique.

On the one hand, in “Never split the difference”, Chris Voss shows us that we should aim for a “No”, which gets us the result much faster. In comparison to getting a yes, which can mean making a commitment, confirming something, or simply lying, getting a no means the exact opposite. No is a yes in disguise, which leaves the tension factor out of the equation.

          In “Influence: the psychology of persuasion”, Robert Cialdini guides us to getting a yes. The key is to get the person in a “yes” mode thinking before asking them to do your bidding.

          Mark Goulston combines the labeling technique, which means describing the situation back to the other person to makes them feel heard. However, he does this by aiming at yes and a sign to continue to label the situation. Mark aims for Robert Cialdini’s “yes”, or “buy-in” as Mark calls it. What Mark really aims at, through labeling, is Chris Voss’s ultimate: “That’s right”.

           The crucial element is to label the other person’s feelings, not words. Describe the situation as it is but go deeper and deeper. As Chris Voss says: “if you haven’t laid it on thick, you haven’t laid it on thick enough”. (check youtube for the right expression).

 

The persuasion cycle

 

          In order to complete the persuasion cycle, you have to go from:  

– resistance to listening

– listening to considering

– considering to willing to do

– willing to do it

– doing it to glad they did it

– glad they did it to continue to do it

          Getting people into the buy-in mood, which moves the cycle of persuasion from the initial resistance stage to the listening one, is not about what you say. It all comes down to what you get the people to tell you.  

          There are rules and techniques which get us from resistance to listening, and down to the last step of persuasion. When you’ve learned and practiced them all, you will no longer feel like the hostage of someone else’s anger or frustration.

 

Getting through is simple

 

          The right words have the power to heal. David’s story underlines the fact that, at times, it’s difficult to separate our personal life from our professional one. The way we act in one situation is the way we act in all situations. Everything can be solved if we only listen and adjust our response, instead of just retaliating, letting our feelings get in the way. As “Emotional Intelligence” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves and tells us: in order to get through to people, we have to take a step back from our usual behavior and control our initial response. The initial response is the one full of emotional baggage and the one getting us into trouble. Let emotions go down for a second. Then, readjust and respond. Talk to the brain, not the heart.

 

How the brain goes from no to yes. It starts with listen

 

          In order to get your message across, you have to address the other person’s brain. Knowing the basics of neuroscience gives you an edge to better getting through to people. Neuroscience talk about the a) three-part brain, b) the amygdala hijack, and c) mirror neurons.

          The three-part brain consists of:

  • The primitive, reptile brain
  • A more evolved mammal layer
  • Primitive layer

The three layers sometimes interconnect, but they act separately and are, often, at war with each other.

As Daniel Goleman tells us in „Working with emotional intelligence”, when the amygdala reaches the boiling point, rational decision-making goes out the window. At this stage, talking facts or reasoning with the other person is futile. The aim is to keep the amygdala to a simmer point, keeping it from boiling over. Only then you can reason with the other person.

When studying monkeys, scientists have discovered that the brain cells of the monkey light up when the monkey performs an action, like eating a banana. The same brain cells have fired when the monkey didn’t perform the action but watched another monkey doing it, instead. This led to the expression “monkey see, monkey does neurons” which later turned into mirror neurons.

 

The power of mirror neurons when listening

 

Mirror neurons, as Chris Voss says in “Never split the difference”, transport us into the other person’s mind. That’s why they are also called empathy neurons. These cells make us care about other people and empathize with them.

          Mirroring other people’s feelings doesn’t simply agree with them. It simply implies that we acknowledge the feelings, without giving our opinion on the situation.

          The real power of mirror neurons lies in reciprocity, the same principle found in Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: the psychology of persuasion”. Reciprocity doesn’t mean only to reciprocate an act only but also to a state. When you’re showing empathy towards the other person, the other person will try to reciprocate and show the same empathy towards you.

         

Get yourself in control first

 

          In Emotional Intelligence, in order to be able to reach other people you have to get through to yourself first. When confronted with a new situation, your primitive layer of the brain takes over. It’s the fight, flight, or freeze response, Evy Poumpouras talks about in her “Becoming bullet proof”. Once you quickly analyze the situation, you can get emotions out of the way and make a calm and rational decision on how to handle it.

          Being in control of your own thoughts and feelings is where successful communication starts. When you do it, in a matter of minutes, you’ll have the upper hand because you’ll be the only one in the room who’s actually thinking straight. You go from panic mode to solution mode.

         

Going from oh, Christ to “ok”

 

Even if crisis situations differ from one another, your brain will treat them all the same. You will go from stage to stage, starting with being scared out of your mind to even swearing to calming down and finding the solution. It’s critical, at first, to name the feelings you are feeling. Stating the emotional state, helps you prevent the amygdala from going into crisis mode and blocking your rational side of the brain.

          Start with “oh, God!” but don’t get stuck there.

“Oh, Christ!”. The reaction fades. Identify your feelings and acknowledge them. Silently identify and describe your feelings.

“I’m really scared!” The act of exhaling will help to calm you. Don’t talk to anyone else during these first seconds. Work from your anger or panic.

“Oh, God!” After you admit the emotion you’re feeling, breathe deeply, and let it go. Keep breathing and relax. You are now regaining your inner balance.

“Oh, Jesus!” Count down to the calm phase.

“Oh, well!” The refocus phase. Start to think about what you can do to control the damage and regain control of the situation.

“Ok!” Now do what you need to do.

These steps will be awkward at first, but the more you practice, the neurological pathways will form, and you’ll master the new skill.

 

Listening helps with understanding the world as it is not as you want it to be

 

         If your secretary handed in a sloppy report more than once, you already formed the preconceived idea about that person. Adjectives as lazy, sloppy comes to mind when seeing that person on a daily basis.

If that same secretary would bring you a sloppy report early Monday morning, wouldn’t you use the same adjectives as before?

What if that person would tell you that her parents were taking care of her grandfather, who was sick? Her parents recently died, and her grandfather remained in her care. The night before, her grandfather felt sick and she dropped everything to take care of them, being the only person alive to do that. Would your answer to the situation change? Would you use the same adjectives? Did you really listened or simply draw the wrong conclusions, not taking the time to really find out what happened?

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. The instant judgments are built on past behaviors, just as your brain layers.

 

Is it fair not “listening” to the other person?

 

In the case of the secretary, people not doing their job well as described as flakes, sloppy. You’ve built on your primitive opinion of this type of person, not taking the time to analyze the situation. You already had your opinion formed and your analysis was based on it. Your colleague fit the pattern and you applied the same labels. These labels stuck. New knowledge is built on prior knowledge.

We size up people today based on what we know or learned about people in the past. Then, we stick with that perception forever and view every interaction with that person through this filter. This is because that’s what we learned to do. In reality, it’s not fair to do it because our opinion is based on a mixture of conscious or unconscious mixed prejudice. From the very start, we’re dealing with a fictitious creation and will also affect whatever that person says because we’ll mold it into our preconceived notions.

We perceive other people through the following filters:

  • Gender
  • Generation
  • Nationality
  • Education
  • emotionality

Just as Noam Chomsky tells us in his “Transformational grammar”: we don’t have time to make an informed decision due to the avalanche of information we receive every day. For this reason, we use elimination, distortion, and generalization to make sense of the new information. At times, it can cost us dearly. The sad thing about it is that it may prevent us from seeing what the other person is all about, robbing them of fair treatment in the first place.  

         

Listening and understanding

 

          Find out the real reasons for the problem behavior you see. This will bring your opinion, and, in consequence, your behavior about a person to change. Until you take a pause to find out how would a person feel in a given situation, based on a possible prior similar experience, you won’t understand what drives that behavior. Understanding the reasons for their behavior is your key to start getting through to people. Remember: getting through gets you to get them to do and continue to do your bidding.

When the other person feels heard, you change the dynamic of the conversation in a heartbeat. Instead of trying to get the better of each other, you get each other. That is the step towards cooperation and communication.

 

        What listening gets us

 

          Each day we encounter people. The reason why we sometimes feel we meet with hostility is that we forget that other people have their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences to think about. They don’t have time to pay attention to us.

          However, how we all need is to be acknowledged. As Dale Carnegie in his “How to win friends and influence people” tells us: we all want to feel important. The reason listening gets you where you through to other people is that when you listen to other people’s experiences or problems, you make them feel important enough to care. As a consequence, based on the reciprocity principle, they will be opened to listen to you and leave hostility aside.

Mark Goulston, like Dale Carnegie, points out the fact that listening will always get you a step further, every time. When you listen to the other, you will get the other more interested in you than you would if you talked about yourself the whole time.          

 

Takeaways from “Just listen”

 

          Like Dale Carnegie and Chris Voss, the key to listening is to start with the other person. Chris tells us that we are in the wrong if we think that starting first, in any situation, gives us the upper hand. Starting first chips away at the chance to gather information about the other person, which is the most crucial step of the process.

          When we listen, we refrain from starting first and practice the empathy we need to get through to people.

          “Just listen” is full of concrete examples that help you better understand the abstract notions.

It’s a great tool for all parents, who have found themselves in impossible situations with their children. Getting through to your child is the key to a peaceful life. It also gets you the feeling of not failing all the time, even questioning your techniques as a parent. Being equipped with the techniques in the book gives you the upper hand in difficult situations. 

          Whether you choose Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”, Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: the psychology of persuasion”, Chris Voss’s “Never split the difference” or Evy Poumpouras“Becoming bullet proof”, the result will be a better version of yourself. This will get you, in return, great relationships with everyone you meet and a tactical advantage from the start. The only condition to getting the results you need is not to act but to be genuine in wanting to know and understand other people. Great results are bound to follow.

 

This post contains an affiliate link. This means I get a small fee, at no cost to you. For further information, please read our disclaimer.    

   

Just listen - discover the secret of getting through to absolutely anyone

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  • Great tool for the workplace
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  • It gives you options in tense situations

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