Just Listen

Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

 Just Listen

Author: Mark Goulston
Pub Date: September 2009
Your Price: $24.95
ISBN: 9780814414033
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9780814414040


Excerpt

Who’s Holding You Hostage?

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.

—PAUL HAWKEN, AUTHOR,

NATURAL CAPITALISM

Right now, there’s someone in your life you need to reach. But you can’t, and it’s driving you crazy. Maybe it’s somebody at work: a subordinate, a team member, a client, your boss. Or maybe it’s somebody at home: a partner, a parent, a defiant teen, an angry “ex.”

You’ve tried everything—logic, persuasion, forcefulness, pleading, anger—but you’ve hit a wall every time. You’re mad, scared, or frustrated. And you’re thinking, “What now?”

Here’s what I want you to do: Think of this as a hostage situation. Why? Because you can’t get free. You’re trapped by another person’s resistance, fear, hostility, apathy, stubbornness, self-centeredness, or neediness—and by your own inability to take effective action.

And that’s where I come in.

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 to married couples who hated each other’s guts. I could even change the minds 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. I knew I wasn’t smarter than everybody else, and I knew my success wasn’t just luck because what I did worked consistently, and it worked with all kinds of people in every type of situation. But why did it work?

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 people toward me, even if those people are trying to pull away.

To understand this, picture yourself driving up a steep hill. Your tires slip and slide and can’t grab hold. But downshift, and 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 persuade. They encourage. They argue. They push. And in the process, they create resistance. When you use the techniques I offer, 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.

The powerful techniques you’ll learn in this book can move people rapidly and easily, often within minutes, from “no” to “yes.” I employ them every day to fix broken families and help warring couples fall in love again. I use them to save companies on the brink of meltdown, get feuding managers to work together effectively, and empower salespeople to make “impossible” sales. And I use them to help FBI agents and hostage negotiators succeed in the toughest situations possible, when life and death are on the line.

In fact, as you’ll find out, you have a lot in common with hostage negotiators when it comes to reaching the people who don’t want to listen to you. That’s why this book starts with Frank’s story.

FRANK'S STORY

Frank is sitting in his car in a large mall parking lot, and nobody is coming near him because he’s holding a shotgun to his throat. The SWAT team and the hostage negotiation team are called in. The SWAT team takes positions behind other cars and vehicles, trying to not agitate the man.

As they wait, they fill in the background details. They’re looking at a man in his early thirties who lost his customer service job at a large electronics store six months earlier for yelling at customers and coworkers. He’d interviewed for several jobs, but didn’t get any of them. He was abusive verbally to his wife and two young children.

A month earlier, his wife and kids moved in with her parents in another city. She told him that she needed a break, and he needed to get his act together. The landlord of their apartment kicked him out at the same time because they hadn’t paid the rent. He moved into a shabby room in a poor section of the city. He stopped bathing and shaving and ate next to nothing. The last straw was the restraining order he’d received the day before he ended up at the mall parking lot.

Now the lead negotiator is talking calmly to the man. “Frank, this is Lieutenant Evans, I’m going to be talking with you, because there is another way out of this besides hurting yourself. I know you don’t think you have any choice, but you really do.”

Frank exclaims: “You don’t know s***. You’re just like everyone else. Leave me the f*** alone!”

Lieutenant Evans replies: “I don’t think I can do that. You’re here in the middle of a mall parking lot with a gun to your throat, and I need to help you find another way out of this situation.”

“Go f*** yourself! I don’t need anyone’s help!” Frank replies.

And so the conversation proceeds for an hour, with stretches of silence lasting several minutes or more. As the information about Frank comes in, it becomes clear that he’s not an evil person, just a very disturbed and angry one. The SWAT team is poised to “take him out” if he threatens anyone else with his gun, but everyone except Frank would like to end this peacefully. However, the odds of that don’t look so good.

After an hour and a half, another negotiator, Detective Kramer, arrives. Kramer is a graduate of one of the hostage negotiation training sessions I’ve delivered to police and FBI hostage negotiators.

Detective Kramer’s been briefed about Frank’s background and the status of this negotiation and offers Lieutenant Evans a different suggestion: “Here’s what I want you to say to the guy: ‘I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to have tried everything else and be stuck with this as your only way out, isn’t that true?’”

Evans replies, “Say what?”

Kramer repeats the suggestion: “Yeah, go on, say this to the guy: ‘I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to have tried everything else and be stuck with this as your only way out, isn’t that true?’”

Evans complies and when he says that to Frank, Frank too replies with: “Say what?”

Evans repeats it to Frank, who this time responds: “Yeah, you’re right, nobody knows and nobody gives a f***!”

Kramer tells Evans, “Good, you got a ‘Yes’; now you’re in. Let’s build on that.” He adds a second question for the lead negotiator to ask: “Yeah, and I’ll bet you feel that nobody knows what it’s like to start every day believing that there’s more chance that something will go wrong than go right, isn’t that true, too?”

To that, Frank replies: “Yeah, every f****** day! The same thing happens.”

Kramer tells Evans to repeat what he’s heard and get an additional confirmation: “And because nobody knows how bad it is and nobody cares and because nothing goes right and everything goes wrong, that’s why you’re in your car with a gun wanting to end it all. True?”

“True,” Frank replied, his voice showing the earliest signs of calming down.

“Tell me more. What exactly has happened to you? When was your life last okay, and what’s happened since then to turn it to crap?” Evans invites.

Frank starts to recount the events since he was fired from his job.

When he pauses, Evans responds with: “Really . . . tell me more.”

Frank continues describing the problems he’s had. At some point, with guidance from Kramer, Evans says: “And all of that’s caused you to feel angry? Or frustrated? Or discouraged? Or hopeless? Or what exactly?” Evans waits for Frank to pick the word that best fits how he feels. Frank finally owns up to: “Fed up.” Evans follows up with: “So you felt fed up and when you got that restraining order, that was the breaking point?” “Yeah,” Frank confirms. His voice, once hostile, is quieter now. In a few sentences, Frank’s gone from refusing to communicate to listening and beginning to have a conversation. What just happened? The most critical step in persuasion—the step I refer to as “buy-in”—has begun. That’s the step where a person goes from resisting to listening and then to considering what’s being said.

What caused Frank to start listening and begin to “buy in” to what Lieutenant Evans was saying? That shift was no accident. The secret lay in saying the words that Frank was thinking but not saying. When the lieutenant’s words matched what Frank was thinking, Frank leaned into the conversation and began to say, “Yes.”

***

Excerpted from JUST LISTEN by Mark Goulston. Copyright © 2010 by Mark Goulston. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.

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