“Just Listen” by Mark Goulston: Book Summary

1 Line Summary

Just Listen” is a book that teaches you how to communicate effectively even with the most difficult or resistant people, by using powerful yet simple techniques based on listening, empathy and honesty.

What Will You Learn

From “Just Listen”, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use Persuasion Cycle,
  • Listen effectively,
  • Deal with difficult people and situations,
  • Transform communication from transactional and transformational.

Best Quotations from the Book

  • Don’t be afraid of sharing your vulnerabilities. Vulnerability doesn’t make you weak, it makes you accessible.
  • So when you encounter a problem people, realize that there’s a reason they’re behaving the way they do. It may be a new problem: a health scare, money problems, or job pressures. It may be a long-term problem: anxiety about not being good enough for a job, anger at not being respected, fear that you don’t find them attractive or intelligent. Open your own mind and look for the reasons behind the behavior, and you’ll take the first step toward breaking down barriers and communicating with an “impossible” person.
  • Perceiving is believing. Misperceiving is deceiving— And worse yet, prevents achieving.”
  • —asking questions during a shared moment, and then deepening the conversation with more questions—are as powerful as communication gets: so powerful that they form the core of the Socratic Method. Socrates never told anybody anything; he just walked around town with people asking them questions until they figured out the answers themselves.

Book Summary

Nine Core Values

According to the book, the nine core values to win healthy relationships and positive influence are:

  • Respect: Give respect to have respect.
  • Appreciation: Give genuine appreciation to receive genuine trust.
  • Affection: Care for the emotions of others and you will receive affection and trust.
  • Acceptance: Accept opinions of others with respect and they will appreciate yours.
  • Approval: Avoid direct criticism to seek approval for your opinions and thoughts.
  • Attention: Pay attention to what others say, and they will listen to you.
  • Encouragement: Show genuine encouragement and acquire what you look for.
  • Comfort: Make others feel comfortable in your presence and you will achieve what you want.
  • Security: Protect vulnerabilities of others to feel yourself protected..

By expressing these values to others, you can make others feel more positive and cooperative, you eventually will achieve your aims and objectives.

Persuasion Cycle

Here is a step by step elaboration of the “persuasion cycle”:

1. From resisting to listening.

The first step is to get the other person stop resisting and start listening to you.

This can be done by a technique called “mirroring”, which means repeating back what the other person is thinking or feeling, and asking them if you are right. This shows that you are paying attention and trying to understand them, which can make them more open to listen to you.

2. From listening to considering.

The second step is to get the other person to consider your point of view or your suggestion.

This can be done by being more interested than interesting, which means asking questions which show that you want to learn more about them and their situation. This shows that you are curious and respectful, which can make them more willing to consider your perspective or your advice.

3. From considering to willing to do.

The third step is to get the other person agree to do what you want them to do, or at least to try it.

This can be done by making them feel “felt”, empathizing with their emotions and showing them care. For example, if someone is afraid of doing something, you can say “I understand that you are scared, and I’m here to support you.”

This shows that you are not judging or pushing, but helping and encouraging them to do what you suggest.

4. From willing to do to doing.

The fourth step is to get the other person to actually do what you want them to do, or at least to start doing it.

This can be done by giving clear and specific instructions, and offering incentives. It shows that you are making it easy and attractive for them to do what you want, which makes it more likely to follow through.

5. From doing to feel pleased over the doing.

The fifth and final step is to get the other person happy with the outcome of doing what you want them to do, and to keep doing it in the future.

It can be done by giving them positive feedback, and reminding them of the benefits or value of doing what you want them to do. This shows appreciation and reinforcing their decision, which can make them more satisfied and loyal.

Steer Clear Technique

Steer Clear Technique involves six steps:

  • Identify the source of resistance with the other person. It could be a difference in values, beliefs, opinions or preferences.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s point of view and show respect for the perspective. Do not argue, criticize, or dismiss their concerns.
  • Shift the conversation from the problem to the solution. Ask open-ended questions that invite the other person to share their ideas and suggestions. Listen actively and empathetically to the responses.
  • Find areas of agreement with the other person. Highlight the benefits and advantages of working together towards a common goal or outcome. Emphasize the positive aspects of the situation and the potential opportunities for improvement.
  • Seek commitment from the other person. Ask them to take a specific step or make a concrete decision that moves the process forward.
  • Express appreciation and gratitude for the cooperation and collaboration.

Magic Paradox

This technique involves asking questions to challenge assumptions or baseless beliefs, e.g.

  • “You’re right, I’m always wrong. How do you manage to be so perfect?”
  • “You’re so smart, you don’t need anyone’s help. Why do you bother asking me anything?”

The purpose of magic paradox is to:

  • Show the absurdity or inconsistency of the difficult person’s logic
  • Make them reflect on their own behavior and attitude
  • Reduce their defensiveness and hostility
  • Open up a dialogue for constructive feedback and problem-solving

Reverse Play

This technique involves going opposite to the expectations of a difficult person in conversation, e.g.

  • Agreeing with the criticism instead of arguing or defending yourself
  • Giving them a compliment or praise instead of a negative feedback or correction
  • Ignoring the provocation instead of reacting.

The purpose of Reverse Play technique is to:

  • Surprise and break their pattern of behavior
  • Disarm aggression and reduce the atmosphere of tension
  • Create a positive or humorous atmosphere and build rapport or trust
  • Encourage them to be more cooperative or respectful

Side-by-Side Approach

This technique involves positioning yourself next to the person you are communicating with, physically or mentally. This creates a sense of collaboration and partnership. Some examples of the side-by-side approach are:

  • Sitting next to someone at a table or on a couch, rather than facing them directly
  • Using phrases like “we”, “us”, and “our”, rather than “I”, “you”, and “your”
  • Asking for the person’s opinion or input, rather than telling them what to do or think
  • Expressing appreciation and gratitude for the person’s time and attention, rather than taking it for granted

The purpose of using the side-by-side approach is to:

  • Build trust with the person
  • Reduce defensiveness and resistance
  • Enhance cooperation and collaboration
  • Foster mutual understanding and respect
  • Create a positive and productive communication climate

Conversation Deepeners

This technique helps you explore the deeper layers of a person’s thoughts and feelings. This involve asking open-ended questions, sharing personal stories using emotional validation. Some examples of conversation deepeners are:

  • Asking questions that start with “how”, “why”, or “what if”, rather than “who”, “what”, “when”, or “where”
  • Using statements that acknowledge and affirm the person’s emotions, rather than dismissing or minimizing them
  • Asking follow-up questions that show interest and curiosity, rather than changing the topic or ending the conversation
  • Giving feedback that is specific, constructive, and sincere, rather than vague, negative, or insincere

The purpose of using conversation deepeners is to:

  • Engage the person’s attention and interest
  • Discover the person’s goals, and values
  • Stimulate the person’s thinking and creativity
  • Inspire the person’s passion and enthusiasm
  • Strengthen the person’s confidence and commitment

Real Influence Model

This framework helps you influence others in a positive way, rather than manipulating or coercing them. The purpose of using the real influence model is to:

  • Align your interests and values with the other person’s
  • Overcome barriers and objections
  • Create win-win outcomes
  • Enhance credibility and reputation

It consists of four steps: connect, understand, reframe, and move to action.

  • Connect:Establish a rapport and a relationship with the person, by showing empathy, respect, and authenticity
  • Understand: Listen actively and attentively to the person, by asking questions, paraphrasing, and summarizing
  • Reframe: Help the person see the situation from a different perspective, by offering new insights, information, or solutions
  • Move to Action: Motivate the person to take the next steps, by setting goals, making plans, and providing support

Nine Core Rules

  1. Calm yourself down when you are stressed. Stress makes it hard to talk to people, so you need to control your emotions quickly.
  2. Learn to listen better. We often judge people quickly based on what we hear or see about them. But our first impressions are not always accurate or fair; we end up talking to a fake version of them. If you want to communicate well, open your mind first and find out who they really are.
  3. Make the other person feel understood. This means putting yourself in their shoes. When you understand each other, you can change a bad situation or relationship to a good one.
  4. Be more curious than impressive. To be good at being interested, stop thinking of a conversation as a game where you try to win points. Instead, think of it as a mystery, where you try to learn as much as you can about the other person.
  5. Make people feel important. People need to feel important, even the ones who complain or get in your way. Both the good and the annoying people in your life need to know that they matter. Do that, and they will give you what you want.
  6. Help people to relax emotionally and mentally. Stress is not bad. It makes us focus, work hard, and grow. But when stress becomes overwhelming, it causes problems. Even though it is hard, let people express their feelings and thoughts as much as they can, without you interrupting or judging them.
  7. Be aware of how you come across to others. Sometimes you think you are acting in one way, but people see you in a different way. For example, you think you are confident, energetic, and passionate, but others see you as arrogant, hyper, and impulsive. Know how others see you by asking friends, family and coworkers.
  8. When things look hopeless, show your weakness. When you are trapped, go deeper, feel your fear, admit your faults, and tell others that you will try to change.
  9. Stay away from toxic people. Don’t let people hurt you. The book says “If you are scared to say ‘No’, you may have a problem; and if nobody ever says ‘No’ to you, you may be the toxic person.”

If you want to improve personal and professional relationships, persuade others to do what you want and achieve your goals, you need to read “Just Listen”. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone.

Read related summaries: “Creating Communications (Part 1)“, “Creating Communications (Part 2)“, “Tools for Talking When Stakes are High“, “How to Talk to Anyone“ ” Master the Art of Negotiation “,“How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “Relation between Effective Communication and Self Awareness“ and “The Art of the Deal

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