“There’s as reason you have two ears and one mouth!” Sound familiar? Sure, a lifetime of being reminded by parents, teachers, business trainers as well as our spouses about the power and importance of listening. But are we really any better at listening? More importantly…how can we level jump our game without returning to training camp?
Mark Goulston is is a psychiatrist, business consultant, executive coach, and a hostage-negotiation trainer for the FBI. He’s also the bestselling author of the books Get Out of Your Own Way and Get Out of Your Own Way at Work and his new book, Just Listen.
With nine rules and twelve techniques Mark is providing a real framework for listening success.
Mark, in general how good are we as listeners?
Not very good. In fact none of us listen, ever. That is because we see the world through filters created by previous experiences that the present situation reminds us of that we're not aware it's reminding us of. That causes us to jump to the wrong conclusions and presume we understand when in most cases we don't.
What are the culprits? Multitasking?
According to Wilfred Bion (1897-1979) "the purest form of listening is to listen without memory or desire." When we listen with memory we're trying to plug someone into an old agenda; when we listen with desire, we're trying to plug someone into a new agenda. But in neither case are we listening to their agenda. Multitasking is one of the main culprits, because each task has its own agenda. And the need for each of those agendas to be filled makes it nearly impossible to listen to another person's agenda.
How can being a better listener benefit us?
Every time we listen/conform to the needs and demands of other people, a reciprocal hunger to be listened to and understood builds. This can build until the ache is deeply painful. This also explains why many of us cry when someone else shows us caring and kindness that we don't expect, because in that moment our hunger and pain go away.
What are your rules for listening?
1. Get through to yourself first and realize that you are not truly listening.
2. Learn how to move yourself from "Oh F&%# to OK" in a matter of seconds and calm yourself instead of becoming agitated which makes you react instead of listen.
3. Get rid of your filters. Think about what you're thinking. The stuff you think you already know about someone—“lazy,” “loser,” “whiny,” “hostile,” “impossible”—is, in reality, blocking out what you need to know. Remove that mental block, and you’re ready to start reaching people you thought were unreachable.
4. Open your own mind.
5. Make other person feel felt.
6. Be more interested than interesting.
7. Make people feel valuable.
8. Help people exhale mentally and emotionally.
What do you suggest when emotions are strong and there appears to be no common ground?
Try preemptive humility by saying: "I think I need to take a break now, because I can't think of anything to say or do at this moment that would not make this situation worse. And worse is not a place I want to go right now. So I'm going to stop here, sleep on it and take if from the top tomorrow."
This is a way of your taking charge of not wanting to have the situation get more out of control.
What did you learn from Hostage Negotiation Training?
• When people are behaving at their worst in a way that scares the heck out of everybody else, it is because they have felt so powerless for so long and are now reacting to it.
• That you can talk and walk someone up from their acting out lower brain up through their emotional middle brain and into their upper rational brain.
• By mirroring what the other person is thinking and feeling they will be drawn to your understanding and empathic caring and away from their agitation which is mainly a reaction to feeling misunderstood and not cared about.
To learn more about the work of Dr. Goulston and his work, Click Here
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