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on December 16, 2009
Everywhere I turn I am being advised to leverage social media. There is even the new concept of " 33 million people in the room." With so many channels and methods to communicate to higher levels of influence and greater numbers in an audience, it is refreshing to know that the playing field is still relatively flat. Just because you have access to people, doesn't mean you are making IMPACT. Mark Goulston's, "Just Listen" is filled with realistic scenarios, assessment tests, and a real candid mirror.
If you aren't getting the results you want in your personal or professional life, there is probably a reason within your control--you probably aren't an effective communicator.
In pure Gouldston style--you are hit right between the eyes. In Section II Goulston shares his "nine core rules:"
1. Move yourself from "oh F#@& to OK"
2. Rewire yourself to listen
3. Make the other person feel "felt"
4. Be more interested than interesting
5. Make people feel valuable
6. Help people to exhale emotionally and mentally
7. Check your dissonance at the door
8. When all seems lost bare your neck
9. Steer clear of toxic people
You might read over this list and "yeah, yeah, yeah I do those things already." Do you? Do you really? What makes "Just Listen" so powerful is that Goulston shares several examples where he was out of alignment with these nine core rules. His transparency forces the reader to be more reflective and take personal responsibility.
Creating dissonance is the barrier I most need to resolve. I could see myself in several of the practical scenarios outlined. Having raised awareness I was sure this week would be different. The hardest part about being human is . . . well, being human. We think we are smart, using our prefrontal cortex--where long term decision making, cause-effect thinking take place-and then we make a choice just a little wiser than a reptile. Bottom line is--just because we are aware of something that needs to change; that awareness doesn't guarantee change. Being effective truly requires introspection, practice and patience. "Just Listen" is not a quick read. It is a workbook, a playbook, and flight plan. For the wisdom here to truly support sustainable progress, you might be keeping it as accessible as your blackberry.
Sales managers, marriage counselors, teachers, and spouses "Just Listen" is the greatest gift you could give yourself to enhance your own awareness and ability to reach those who are most important to you. Just read!
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on September 7, 2009
Just Listen:

It's Labor Day, and I can't stop reading my new favorite book!

The book is `Just Listen,' by Mark Goulston.

As I read it, I find that each of his messages `hit's home' in three ways at once: it is simple to understand, easy to remember, and directly actionable. I find myself wanting to have my next big client interview right away - so I can try out these `easy to remember - easy to apply' techniques of communication.

What do I remember from the book? A series of `burning insights':

First, that my `reptile brain' (or amygdala) kicks in when I am `reactive' or `ballistic' (as I am on occasion), but if I can put a label on my feeling at that point - `I am upset' or `I am angry,' I can begin to get control over my response.

Mark carries this forward to the point where I can begin to have a `rational' conversation with myself, using my `human brain' - and, for example, with my wife(!) - but I'll leave that to him as he describes it in the book.

Key note: The point here is to `Listen to myself' and my own internal reactions. As Mark puts it, `if you want to open the lines of communication, open your own mind first.'

A second `burning insight': Make the other person `feel felt.' This one requires a kind of emotional intelligence - the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes. When you learn to do it, you will find the `barriers' to communication begin to come down, and the window (or door) to building a new possibility of relationship begin to open.

A third `burning insight': How to increase the `PEP' in your business - or your family. `PEP' stands for passion, enthusiasm, and pride. I'll give you a hint - only try this one if you've got a thick skin.

A fourth `burning insight': `How to make the impossible possible.'

I know - this one sounds like a `stretch.' It is - but that is exactly the point: It stretches our minds. This one looks at what could make something seemingly impossible into something that - while challenging - could suddenly begin to seem possible.

Once again, by changing the mental frame from which we look at a situation, new possibilities begin to emerge. That, of course, is a central message of the whole book.

But by capturing those situations in which I (we) find ourselves - or our responses - or our conversations - or our relationships (seemingly) blocked, or unworkable - Mark keeps showing ways to `untie' the Gordian knot, and make forward progress.

If you find any Gordian knots in yourself, or your communications, or your relationships - I heartily recommend this book.

It just may be the simplest, easiest - and most powerful - book I ever read.

So - try it yourself. On yourself. On your relationships. I think you'll find new possibilities, and newly achievable outcomes showing up in your life. Actually, I would bet on it.

Peter Patch (Stanford MBA, Harvard Doctoral Program in Business & Economics)
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on August 27, 2009
This book is a must read for anyone that would like to decrease the frustration levels in their life and become more effective by focusing on the "other side" of communicating, listening. Written in a style that is easy to read, engaging and entertaining Dr Goulston doesn't bog you down with the typical shrink babble; instead throughout the book there are stories and examples that everyone can relate to. More importantly the tips and solutions on how to easily implement a solution are logical, practical and more importantly doable-- and they work!
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on September 7, 2009
OK, I'll admit it. I am a Dr. Goulston fan - I read his blog "Usable Insight" regularly. Which is why I hopped on the chance to preview a copy of his latest book, "Just Listen" ... And wow! am I glad I did.

This book exceeded my expectations. "Just Listen" is engaging, enthralling, and practical. Dr. Goulston lays out a system for improving your communication style that you can live with - no "fancy-smancy-gotta-change-your-sacred-self-or-else" stuff here. Instead, Dr. Goulston provides practical, usable insight that is applicable for in both your professional and personal lives.

Who hasn't needed to give themselves a "jeckectomy" every once in a while, or move themselves mentally and emotionally from "Oh F#@& to OK"? Even before I finished reading (and re-reading) "Just Listen", I was already trying out some of the techniques from "The Nine Core Rules for Getting Through to Anyone." The "Power Thank You?" I gave my mom one, and she cried. That one simple, powerful "thank you Mom" was a breakthrough in our relationship.

And if you're looking for real-life, day-to-day business scenarios in which to apply the techniques, look no further than the section titled, "Putting It All Together: Fast Fixes for Seven Challenging Situations." These scenarios would make team-building case studies and exercises!

No matter what you pay for this book, the insights inside are PRICELESS!
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on September 29, 2009
The Good: Learning how to use nine basic rules to get through to anyone, twelve ways to achieve buy-in, and seven ways to put it all together for success in work and life.

The Bad: Nothing, except the consequences of not reading this book.

Action Item: Worker, managers, and leaders should buy this book to understand the fundamentals of communications in numerous scenarios, ranging from dealing with difficult people in personal and work relationships to climbing the career ladder. Key takeaways include: (1) understanding the persuasion cycle; (2) how the brain really works; (3) the rules for getting through to anyone; and (4) how to achieve buy-in from resistors.
Persuasion is a Cycle

Most of us will never be a FBI hostage negotiator, although there will be times when we feel like a hostage negotiator in our communications with our friends or family. Goulston's book Just Listen teaches you the fundamentals of communication, focusing on his Persuasion Cycle.

At work or in our personal lives, we're trying to get buy-in from others. Goulston recommends that we work through five stages to persuade others to our point of view.

The goal of this cycle is to move from resistance to continuation to do what we'd like them to do:

1. From resisting to listening
2. From listening to considering
3. From considering to willing to do
4. From willing to do to doing
5. From doing to glad they did and continuing to do

By explaining the Persuasion Cycle, the reader immediate starts comparing or contrasting on what he or she does compared to Goulston's model. For example, I immediately started thinking, "I see why I sometimes fail at persuading others. I speed from Step 2 to Step 4, completely bypassing Step 3.'"

We have Three Brains?: After learning how to improve my persuasion skills, I learned that I have three brains. I didn't know I had three brains. Did you? I knew there were moments that I felt a little too "primal" when I had a strong, negative reaction to something or felt "evolved" when I tapped into my inner Spock analytical thinking. I didn't know that over millions of years, the human brain evolve to having a primitive reptile layer, a more evolved mammal layer, and a final primate layer. This was shocking to me. Not because of reading the word "reptile" in the same sentence with human brain, which granted, felt weird, but because it all made sense to me:

* The lower reptilian brain is the "fight-or-flight" part of your brain. This region of your brain is all about acting and reacting, without a lot of thinking going on. It can also leave you frozen in a perceived crisis-the "deer-in-the-headlights" response.
* The middle mammal brain is the seat of your emotions. (Call it your inner drama queen.) It's where powerful feelings-love, joy, sadness, anger, grief, jealousy, pleasure-arise.
* The upper or primate brain is like Star Trek's Mr. Spock: It's the part that weighs a situation logically and rationally and generates a conscious plan of action. This brain collects data from the reptile and mammal brains, sifts it, analyzes it, and makes practical, smart, and ethical decisions.

Finally, an explanation that summed up my human experience into one concept.

My Tricky Amygdala!: Goulston continues on this path by teaching us how the amygdala in our brain hijacks rational thought by flying into action if it senses a threat to us. I knew something had to be hijacking my thinking. I didn't know how to control it until reading this book. It turns out, if we intervene before our "amygdala hits the boiling point, our higher brain can stay in control." Clever, a key to success: short-circuit the amygdala to stay in control. Excellent. I can see how this tactic can be used for everything, ranging from managing bullies at work or dealing with a cranky flight attendant.

Now I also know how to let my amygdala trigger proper responses. The "flight" part of "flight or fight" is a good thing since it keeps me from being a C.S.I. victim. With practice, I can control my amygdala to keep me rational like Gil Grissom at work.

The Nine Core Rules for Getting Through to Anyone: If I had stopped on page 17 of Just Listen, I would have been content and felt prepared for all business and personal scenarios. Goulston didn't stop there; it's just the beginning. He keeps adding value by sharing his nine rules for getting through to even the most challenging people in our lives:

1. Move Yourself from "Oh F#@& to OK" in a five step process
2. Rewire Yourself to Listen
3. Make the Other Person Feel "Felt"
4. Be More Interested Than Interesting
5. Make People Feel Valuable
6. Help People to Exhale Emotionally and Mentally
7. Check Your Dissonance at the Door
8. When All Seems Lost-Bare Your Neck
9. Steer Clear of Toxic People

As Goulston explains each rule, he also provides the reader with "Usable Insights" and "Action Steps" at the end of each chapter, providing you learning tools to practice each rule. My favorite rules? I have two:

* Rule number 3 - Make the Other Person Feel "Felt": inside every person-no matter how important or famous-is a real person who needs to "feel felt." If we satisfy that need, and we'll transform ourselves from a face in the crowd to a friend or an ally.
* Rule number 6 - Help People to Exhale Emotionally and Mentally: help people to exhale emotionally and mentally by getting them to exhale by not interrupting the person or getting defensive. Let the person vent and exhale. At that point, positive emotions will fill the hole left behind by the negative ones.

After learning Goulston's nine rules, I also know how to deal with toxic people in a more effective manner. Watch out bullies, needy people, takers, narcissists, and psychopaths, I'm onto to you. I now have Goulston strategies and tactics ready to launch whenever I have to communicate or not communicate with you.

The Twelve Ways to Achieve Buy-In: As if his nine rules weren't enough, Goulston also gives his readers powerful tools for moving people through the Persuasion Cycle. These tools can "change the course of a business project, a sale, a relationship, or even a life." Below are the benefits of his twelve ways to achieve buy-in:

1. Move a person from listening to considering-and from "Yes . . . but" to "Yes!"
2. Shift another person from resistance to listening-from "nobody understands" to "you understand."
3. Transition a person from resisting to "willing to do" in a single step, by changing the dynamics of a relationship.
4. Move a resistant underachiever all the way to the "willing to do" stage by creating empathy.
5. Move a person who's "over the top" from resistance to listening by lowering the person's anger or fear.
6. Calm a person who's upset or angry, moving the person from resisting to listening and then from listening to considering.
7. Move a person from considering to "willing to do" by neutralizing your weak points.
8. Move a person from considering to "willing to do" by transforming a relationship from impersonal to personal.
9. Lower another person's guard and move the person from resistance to listening.
10. Move a person to the "willing to do" stage by making the person feel felt and understood.
11. Move a person rapidly through every phase of the Persuasion Cycle from resistance to "doing," by creating agreement where none exists.
12. Move a person from "doing" to "glad they did" and "continuing to do" by using the Power Thank You, or from resistance to listening with the Power Apology.

Add these twelve tools to your communication arsenal and you'll get through to people you never thought you could reach.

Fast Fixes for Seven Challenging Situations: Goulston keeps on giving by providing you with seven applications for common, but hard-to-handle situations, using a mix of the skills you've learned in previous chapters.

1. The Team from Hell
2. Climbing the Ladder
3. The Narcissist at the Table
4. You're a Stranger in Town
5. "Disgruntled Employee goes Berserk" Scenario
6. Getting Through to Yourself
7. Six Degrees of Separation in Networking

After learning about 1 persuasion cycle, 3 brains, 9 rules, and 12 tools, and 7 applications, I'm ready to start persuading people (for good, not evil, of course).

Conclusion: Mark Goulston's book Just Listen is a must-read for anyone who must interact with people, even anti-social hermits should read the book, so they can learn how to persuade others to stop bothering them. This book is a natural fit for managers and leaders, but it's also invaluable for those working up the corporate ladder. More importantly, it's a must-read to learn why you have three brains and why your body knows how to avoid being a C.S.I. victim.
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on October 20, 2012
The book goes thru examples of various situations, such as trying to diffuse a tense situation, trying to deal with a stubborn family member, or trying to close a sale. The author gives a mock conversation of what you should say, and how the other person will likely react. Most of what he advises is just common sense and basically the "kiss butt" approach - the power thank you, the power apology, make the person feel felt, be interested not interesting.

The author loses credibility in my view, by conveniently playing out each conversation in the best case scenario. In the mock examples, the other person "always" reacts exactly as planned; either spilling his guts, giving you the sale, breaking down and crying, ...

I understand the book works better this way, but some of the examples just go too smooth, and lose believability.
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on September 19, 2010
Informative, easy reading.

For me, with high intelligence and creativity but middling "emotional IQ" the concepts in this book I consider to be "glue," it doesn't stand alone but it provided me critical insight I simply didn't know before which provided context and understanding to other books and past experience.

It is a great compliment to classic texts such as Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by fleshing out specific techniques and reasons why they work to achieve Carnegie's recommendations. It also explains how many successful folks have been successful even if they didn't explicitly say (or even realize it), one specific example is a favorite management book of mine -- Michael Abrashoff's "It's Your Ship."

I was always aware I was not selfish but I was "self-centered" when trying to talk with others. Even before I finished reading this book I began to put the advice in it into action, both business and personal. Other books on, say, flirting I could read but it didn't help. With "Just Listen" I was able to snap out of the self-centered way of having conversations and start making it about the other person. Suddenly things like flirting I started to "get."

I was also aware there was something I didn't quite "get" when reading history and other books that dealt with the strategy. I always had a hard time understanding why certain figures in history had a natural talent for getting strategy right, and others were spectacular failures (all luck aside for each group).

I can link Goulston to one of the most famous and oldest of authors. Sun Tzu taught that strategy depended on understanding and anticipating the actions of others. Understanding depends on empathy -- you have to be able to see how someone else views the problem in order to anticipate how they'll act. Goulston lays out how to be empathetic by actively questioning and listening to others. (Many people can be very successful at achieving objectives, but fail utterly at achieving their vision because they got the strategy wrong.)

One story from history, while I always knew was powerful, I never really "got it" until I was able to analyze it through the concepts I learned from this book.

In March, 1783 George Washington faced a mutiny by senior officers who were conspiring to depose him as head of the Continental Army and to march on Congress with demands for back pay. The following paragraph is addresses one of the most critical moments in American History:

Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, " There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye." (Google Washington Newburgh to quickly find the source)

Before "Just Listen" I knew it was a powerful story; after "Just Listen" I am able to put myself into the heads of both Washington and his assembled officers and actually understand why it was so powerful, including such concepts as "mirror neuron deficits" in what he said "baring his neck" in how he acted, and why his long and logical speech preceding that act had not gotten through but this did.
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on September 25, 2009
First, a disclaimer: Mark Goulston and I share the same publisher, and in fact the same editor (the incomparable Ellen Kadin). We both write books about communications skills and are practicing therapists. But this isn't a "friend of the author" review. I've never spoken to Mark, and purchased this book on Amazon like everyone else.

This is, quite simply, the new standard on how to connect with the people in your life. Goulston describes himself as having a lifelong gift of being able to "reach" anyone, and his gift to us is breaking this talent down into steps that anyone can follow. A psychiatrist who trains hostage negotiators and consults with CEOs, he takes you inside the SWAT team or the boardroom and back again, turning some of life's most difficult moments - and difficult people - into actionable learning experiences.

Techniques for active listening have been around for more than half a century. What Mark adds to the dialogue is a lucid discussion of the mechanics that make people feel "felt," as he puts it. From learning how to be interested rather than "interesting," to the so-called empathy jolt that helps you quickly learn the other person's position, this book brings the process of listening to life and then puts it to work for some of your most difficult situations.

You will read this book from cover to cover, and then you will put it down and know exactly what to change. (Even for a fellow expert like me - for example, after seeing page 58 the holiday letter my wife and I normally send to our friends is going to read very differently this year.) And in all likelihood, it will make a bigger difference in your life than anything else you read this year. -Rich Gallagher, author of What to Say to a Porcupine and How to Tell Anyone Anything
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on January 19, 2011
There are some great lessons in this book. I expect it will change the way I engage with people in the future a bit.

I did find the scripted nature of the methodology a bit lacking. The examples were a little too crisp and tight and I found them way overconfident. Technique like "I'll bet you feel..." reminded me that I can't read minds and wouldn't feel all that comfortable saying that I assumed I did to someone under duress. When I notice someone scripting me I get a bit offended as I expect many people would. Tricky terrain.
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on September 9, 2009
This book is close enough to common sense to make it easily acceptable and implementable by readers. Yet it's far enough beyond common sense to make you feel you've gotten something new out of the book. If the author is enough of a marketer and the stars align (luck matters, alas, in such matters) this book could become this generation's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.'"
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