The following is Part 1 of an interview with Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, discussing the importance of listening and productive communication.
How would you describe the response to your book, Just Listen?
Every day, I hear from people around the world who tell me that Just Listen has changed their lives. These stories delight and inspire me, because I truly believe that we can ‘heal the world one conversation at a time.’ The comments I receive come from people in every walk of life. I hear from CEOs and homemakers, from ministers, salespeople, teachers, and cops. I’m humbled by these readers’ words, and I appreciate their willingness to take the time and effort to reach out to me. And I’m grateful to them for confirming two things that I’ve learned from my own experience. The first is that simply listening to people will change both their lives and yours. And the second is that nearly all people—no matter who they are—will respond to true, agenda-less listening in an authentic and heartfelt way. Here is another thing that readers tell me over and over again: Listening makes them care more about the people in their lives.
How did you come to develop your exceptional approach to productive communication?
I’m just an average guy—husband, father, doctor—but a long time ago, I discovered that I had a special talent. You could drop me into just about any situation, and I could reach people. I could persuade defiant executives, angry employees, or self-destructing management teams to work cooperatively toward solutions. I could get through to families in turmoil and married couples who hated each other’s guts. I could even change the mind of hostage takers and desperate people contemplating suicide. I wasn’t sure what I was doing differently from everybody else, but I could tell it worked. It worked with all kinds of people in every type of situation. In analyzing my methods, I found the answer. It turned out I’d happened on a simple, quick set of techniques—some I’d discovered on my own, and others I’d learned from mentors and colleagues—that create traction. That is, they pull toward me, even if those people are trying to pull away.
Would you share more insight into how your unusual methods work their magic?
Yes. To better understand it, picture yourself driving up a steep hill. Your tires slip and slide and can’t grab hold. But if you downshift, you get control. It’s like pulling the road to meet you. Most people upshift when they want to get through to other people. They encourage. They argue. They push. And in the process, they create resistance. When you use the techniques I offer in Just Listen, you’ll do exactly the opposite—you’ll listen, ask, mirror, and reflect back to people what you’ve heard. When you do, they will feel seen, understood, and felt—and that unexpected downshift will draw them to you.
Mark Goulston is a business advisor, consultant, coach, speaker, and psychiatrist. The author of Get Out of Your Own Way and other popular books, he blogs for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today; cohosts a weekly radio show; and is featured frequently in major media, including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, CNN, Fox News, and the TODAY show.
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