Just Listen is a book by Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist and the author of multiple books on overcoming self-defeating habits and becoming more effective in social situations. His new book shares important information about improving communication skills. Dr. Goulston has trained executives at major companies as well as hostage negotiators. The book is awesome. It starts off like an action movie, with a shotgun-wielding man facing off against a SWAT team. The hostage negotiator in the story uses strategies from the book to calm down the gunman.
Here are some of the strategies discussed in the book:
• During a stressful time, the act of identifying your emotions will inhibit emotional responses so you can think in more reasonable ways.
• Overcome subconscious filters that cause you to generate inaccurate stereotypes about people based on gender, age, ethnicity, education level, and emotional expression. It’s more important to think about events in a person’s life that are more accurate in terms of identifying and predicting behavior.
• Some strategies for helping a person feel understood include: asking what the person is feeling, asking to what degree they are feeling that emotion, asking why the person is feeling that emotion, asking what needs to happen to make them feel better, and asking how you can help.
• Try spending more time showing sincere interest in other people instead of constantly attempting to come up with witty and impressive things to say. Think of a conversation as a detective game where your goal is to learn as much as you can about the other person.
• Sample questions to ask in business: How did you get starting doing what you do (and what do you like best about it)? What are you trying to accomplish (and why is that important)?
• Sample questions to ask in personal relationships: What person has had the biggest influence on your life? Who are you most grateful to? If you imagine your life is perfect, what do you see?
• When a person responds to questions, ask follow-up questions and summarize what they said.
• Give people the opportunity to feel important.
• Give people time to vent and don’t interrupt them while they’re venting. When they’re done, pause and say “Tell me more.”
• Be honest about making a mistake, or even better – reach out for help before you mess up.
• Sharing information about your weaknesses and failures is a good way to create empathy between people.
• Eliminate toxic people like pathologically needy people, bullies, takers, narcissists, and psychopaths from your life.
• When a bully tries to intimidate you: make eye contact, act polite yet bored, and even bully them back (but only if you have a backup plan).
• To shift someone from a defensive attitude to an open attitude, ask “What’s something that’s impossible?” and then “What would make it possible?”
• When someone is having trouble, empathize with the negative thoughts and feelings they are experiencing by acknowledging how difficult their life is.
• Put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask “How would I feel if I were him or her right now?”
• A way to calm down angry people is to keep them talking via saying things like “Tell me more…”
• To deal with weaknesses, address them up front by: quickly describing the problem, explaining how to handle it, and then moving on to the next topic.
• Ask people questions that let them think creatively and express their intelligence. These are questions that show you’re interested in a person’s ideas and supportive of their life and goals.
• Working with people on a cooperative activity is a way to get them to lower their guard and open up to you. Make sure you don’t abuse their trust. Avoid things like searching for negative information or arguing with them.
• Ask people questions that invite them to fill in the blanks, rather than questions that put them on the spot.
• In business situations, keep pushing for what you want until you reach the point where the other party tells you “no.”
• The Power Thank You:
1. Thank a person for something specific.
2. Acknowledge the effort that went into their action.
3. Tell the person the personal impact on your life and the difference that it made.
• The Power Apology:
1. Express sincere remorse and allow the other person to vent.
2. Find a way to make amends to them.
3. Show that you’ve learned your lesson through the actions you take from that point on.
4. Request forgiveness at a later date.