Do You Hear No More Often Than You Hear Yes?
Then maybe you are not listening in a way that makes others want to say yes to you, explains Mark Goulston, author of "Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through To Anyone." Learn how to create traction, not resistance, when you talk with others.
Are you a good listener? Do you get the results you want when you talk with your boss, your husband, your teenager? Mark Goulston, M.D. discusses the nine core rules to getting through to anyone, from his book, "Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Anyone."
Commitment: How did you become an expert in the art of listening?
Mark Goulston, M.D.: I became an expert at listening after a breakthrough with a highly suicidal and nearly non-communicative patient, who had mad five suicide attempts and been hospitalized for several months every year for prior four years.
The breakthrough came after being my being sleep deprived and after I somehow was able to literally look at the world through her eyes and emotions (i.e. the room became colorless and hazy to me) that she could not communicate. In that moment I was able to experience the bleakness and hopelessness of her life. I told her I couldn’t help her kill herself, but would still think well of her if she did, would miss her and that maybe I could understand why she needed to kill herself (i.e. to get out of the endless pain). After that she looked at me for the first time, smiled and said: “If you can really understand why I might need to kill myself, maybe I won’t have to.” After that, my view of the room went back to normal and my patient let go of being suicidal and went on to get a PhD and have two children.
Since that time I have developed a way of putting myself in the other person’s shoes and hearing what they’re saying between and under their words. And when I reflect back to them what I have heard and they feel heard, understood and “felt,” they lean into and towards me and begin to collaborate.
You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to do this. All you need to do is have a core value of being of service to others and a core belief that if you do so, they will reciprocate. If that value and belief are in place, it is then just a matter of putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself, “What would I really want and need if I were them?”
Dr. Goulston On The Five Principles Of Listening If You Want To Get Through To Someone, And Not Keep Hitting A 'Brick Wall':
1. Unless people ask for advice, they usually don’t want it.
2. The more you try to convince people, the more they resist.
3. Almost nobody listens to others with a completely “open” and receptive mind, instead most listen with filters that distort what they believe other people are communicating.
4. Until and unless you accept the above and adjust how you listen, your chances of getting through to others is very small.
5. The best and purest form of listening according to the late psychoanalyst, Wilfed Bion (1898-1979) is to “listen without memory or desire.” When you listen with memory, you are trying to plug people into an old agenda; when you listen with desire, you are trying to plug them into a new agenda. But in neither case is it their agenda. To reverse this be a PAL and employ, Purposeful Agendaless Listening. Your purpose is to serve and be helpful to them vs. pushing your agenda.
Commitment: When we attempt to listen to another person, what core needs of that person do we have to meet in order for it to be a successful communication?
Dr. Goulston: They need to feel they liked, respected, cherished (more so if a woman), admired (more so if a man), adored (probably equally so if either), that they can trust us and that they will feel proud and even envied (vs. embarrassed) to be seen with us.
Commitment: How can a person create 'traction' which pulls a person towards you, rather than 'resistance' through listening?
Dr. Goulston: To pull a person towards you follow the advice of my mentor, Warren Bennis who would suggest you: (a) commit yourself to getting to where they’re coming from (i.e. determining what is most critical and important to them); and (b) care about them when you’re there (i.e. try to assist them in any way you can with what is critical and most important to them).
Dr. Goulston On How To Communicate In A Way That Brings You A 'Yes' Rather Than a 'No':
1. Repeat either verbatim or summarize what they have said to you and ask them if you have heard them correctly and wait for them to say, “Yes” or to correct what you heard.
2. Have them attach an emotion to the situation. For instance say, “And this is causing you to feel frustrated? Scared? Ticked off? Or what exactly? This serves the purpose of causing them to feel understood (and cared about) by you, further calming them down and causing them to be grateful to you which often results in their being more open to what you have to say.
3. Have them tell you why this is important to them. For instance say, “And the reason this is so important to get done, fixed, solved is because ________.” This will further engage the reasoning part of their mind and also increase their reciprocal gratitude to you if you help the. If you can’t completely help them, you can say: “Let’s sort out what you need from what you want, because there should be a way to make sure you get what you absolutely need, even you don’t get everything you want.”
Dr. Goulston On The Kind of Listening and Communicating That Puts Others On the Defensive and More Often Trigger's A 'No':
1. Interrupting people. If people are going on and on, you might say in an interested and polite fashion: “Just so I don’t miss the importance of what you’re saying, the most critical thing for me to get from what you’ve said is ________” (have them fill in the blanks).
2. Bringing in something that doesn’t build or link to what they’ve said, but literally hijacks the conversation to what you want to talk about. It’s as if you’re saying to them: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now what’s really important is what’s on my mind.”
3. Using words like “always” and “never.” That feels to the other as if you are using hyperbole or embellishing your position to make your case.
4. Talking “at” or “over” them instead of “to” or optimally “with” them. The best way to tell which you’re doing is by watching their body language.
Commitment: You write that to "reach someone, you need to talk to the human upper brain, not the snake brain or the rat brain." Can you explain this?
Dr. Goulston: The snake brain is our lower "fight or flight" reptile brain and reacts to situations by running or attacking. The rat brain is our middle mammalian brain and reacts and can react to situations emotionally (which is why mammals can get stress ulcers), before they run or attack.
Our human brain is our brain and is capable of being reasoned with and choosing how to react to a situation. To "reach someone" you want to be able to literally talk them up from their "fight or flight" and emotional brains to their human brains. That is why one of the first steps in doing this is to repeat back to someone either exactly what you heard them say or a summary of what you heard them say.
When you do that, you cause someone who is possibly venting or complaining or yelling at you to have to listen to you. Venting is a motoric function and is much quicker (i.e. fight of flight) than listening which is a sensory function (i.e and there is a good chance they'll listen if you tell them that what they told you was too important for you to have misunderstood).
Shifting someone from motor to sensory is the first step in getting to calm down and listen to reason.
Commitment: What are mirror neurons, and what role do they have in communication?
Dr. Goulston: They are special neurons that are present in other primates that are thought to be present in human being that appear to fire when you watch what another person is doing, imagine yourself doing that thing, are actually doing that thing.
As such they are thought to be very important in imitation, learning and empathy and when defective in playing a key role in autism.
I have coined the phrase, “Mirror neuron receptor deficit” to indicate that most people feel that they conform and care about the world around them much more than the reverse. It is my view that doing this creates a hunger in us to be conformed to and cared about by the outside world.
It is that hunger that is caused by our mirror neurons (or some other part of our mind) wanting to be cared about. It is also why we often blush or even tear up when other’s spontaneously show genuine caring towards us.
The Nine Core Rules For Getting Through to Anyone:
1. Move Yourself from “Oh F#@& to OK” in a five step process
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 Neck
9. Steer Clear of Toxic People
Commitment: One of the rules you write about is "Make the Other Person Feel 'Felt.' How can we make another person feel felt?
Dr. Goulston: You make the other person feel “felt” when you put yourselves in their shoes and can identify what their feeling and then check that out with them and furthermore check out how intense that is.
If you sense that someone is frustrated, hurt, disappointed or scared (and it is usually one of a combination of those) say to them: “I get a sense that you’re feeling either frustrated, hurt, disappointed, scare or what exactly?” Wait for them to fill in the most accurate word.
After they say, for example, “Frustrated,” reply with: “How frustrated are you?” They may be confused and say, “What do you mean?” After that say, “I want to know how bad it is for you, because that will give me a sense of how urgent it is to get this taken care of.” That is the kind of conversation that will help them feel felt and cared about.
Commitment: Another rule for getting through is "Help People to Exhale Emotionally and Mentally." What does this mean?
Dr. Goulston: When people get past complaining and venting, they can physically, mentally and emotionally relax and if you then don’t rush in to “sell” them something, they will feel grateful and be more open to you.
Commitment: What advice do you have for parents who can't seem to get through to their teenagers?
Dr. Goulston: Don’t give advice to teenagers unless they ask for it. Leverage the future that no one has messed up rather than rehashing something from the past in which both of you will just become defensive. Therefore say to them: “Going forward do you want me to let you figure everything out for yourself and learn from your successes and failures? Or do you want me to step in and introduce you to opportunities that can help you to be both more happy and successful and/or do you want me to tell you about something you are about to do that I think will get you hurt or cause you to deeply regret? If they agree to the second invitation, ask them the best way for you to communicate with them about an opportunity or something risky.
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About the Author: Mark Goulston, M.D. is a business advisor, consultant, trainer and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist who honed his skills as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer who increases people’s ability to get through to anyone.
Dr. Goulston’s development of those skills started with his education: a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.D. from Boston University, post graduate residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He went on to be a professor at UCLA’s internationally renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute for more than twenty years, become a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (the highest award that organization offers) and was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists for 2004-2005 and again in 2009 by Washington, D.C. based Consumers’ Research Council of America.
A partial list of companies and organizations he has trained, spoken to, provided executive coaching to or consulted with include: GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, Astra Zenica, Kodak, Federal Express, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw.
He is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and is the best selling author of four books including Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…and Help Others Do the Same (Perigee, 2006), is a contributor to Harvard Business, blogs for the Huffington Post, writes the Tribune media syndicated column, Solve Anything with Dr. Mark, column on leadership for FAST COMPANY, Directors Monthly. He is frequently called upon to share his expertise with regard to contemporary business, national and world news by television, radio and print media including: Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, Los Angeles Times, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/CNN/BBC News, Oprah, Today.
Dr. Goulston lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.