Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Real Secret of Mark Goulston's Book, "Just Listen"

I recently read an excellent book on listening: Just Listen (2010), by Mark Goulston. Mark is a psychiatrist, but instead of helping sick people get well, he mostly consults to organizations and coaches executives. In other words, he uses his considerable listening skills to solve business problems and heal business relationships. In this book, he shares these skills with his readers.

Many of his suggestions are both original and useful. For example, "Understanding a person's hunger and responding to it is one of the most potent tools you'll ever discover for getting through to anyone." At the heart of the book, Goulston describes nine core people skills - all related to listening.

Chapter 5 recommends, "Make the Person Feel Felt." When you have to deal with someone's disruptive behavior, instead of confronting or attacking the person, he suggests putting yourself in the other person's shoes. "Inside every person is a real person who's just as afraid or nervous or in need of empathy as anyone else," he says.

He suggests that we try to imagine what a person may be feeling. Then say something like this: "I get the impression that you're frustrated because you feel that Joe doesn't appreciate your contribution to this project. Is this correct?"

Wait for him to agree or correct you, then say, "How frustrated are you?"

Give him time to respond or vent. Encourage the person to fully express his feelings. A good follow-up: "And the reason you're so frustrated is because..." Listen actively to what he says.

Then say, "Tell me - what needs to happen for you to feel better?"

And finally: "What can you do to make that happen? How can I help?"

In other words, you give the undeniable impression that you "feel his pain." According to Goulston, this so rarely happens in relationships that doing so can cause a dramatic breakthrough.

As I read about this and other listening-related skills, I had my usual three thoughts:

1. I can get great insights from a book like this, but knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. If I want to get full value, I need to apply what I learned in real life with real people.

2. After I apply what I learn, I need to learn from my experience. I need to reflect using the "5 magic questions."

3. Then I need to repeat this action-reflection cycle over and over until the doing starts to feel automatic and natural.

But honestly, there's one more step. Under the pressure of real life and in the heat of the moment, I need to recognize that this situation - right here, right now - is a perfect opportunity for applying the skill. Otherwise I'll blow it. I'll do what I usually do instead.

"Recognizing the moment" is so important that we've included this action as the crucial first step for many of the people skill videos in ProStar Coach. For example, "How to Listen" begins with recognizing the "listening moment." And "How to Guide Learning" begins with recognizing the "learning moment."

Mark Goulston's subtitle is "Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone." Yes, he delivers. The book, Just Listen, really does share his secret. It's actually more than one secret. And it's good stuff, the real deal.

But even if you learn what it is, it won't mean dee-diddly-squat if you don't have the presence of mind to apply the secret in your life, when it matters.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Denny Coates:
Well, it is the official government Memorial Day so we get two of them! I hardly planned to 'put myself to work' reading substantive stuff like this post this morning, but somehow it intrigued from your tweet, so here I am marking it a fave for later. Just read it, but it'll take another look to digest.
I enjoy your work when I drop in.
Thanks for the energy you demonstrate in keeping these messages coming. I for one appreciate them.