THE BLOG
11/11/2013 05:11 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Book Review: Just Listen by Mark Goulston

As we approach the end of the year, we are all going to start to reflect on the year we've had and what major events have impacted us. While the list is endless and certainly contains such impactful events as the Boston Marathon Bombing and the U.S. government shut down, one event that sticks out for me in 2013 is Yahoo!'s purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 Billion.

Last year, we were all shocked when Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 Billion. This year, the fad of big technology companies scooping up smaller social media sites continues. As much as we may want to shut down our own Facebook accounts to get back some time and stop stalking people we don't talk to anymore, we don't. Social media is here to stay. It is the new way of communicating, and everyone seems to be on board.

With all of this excitement over a new way of communicating, though, it is important to remember how to communicate in person. Online, small 140-character pieces of text are all you need. You could reach out to a long-lost friend every few months with a one-liner saying "Miss you!" and this is acceptable. In person, it's not quite the same. It takes time, listening and truly getting to know the person.

In Mark Goulston's book Just Listen, he reminds us how to communicate with the people right in front of us. The people we see every day and need to be able to understand. The customers you have worked with forever, but still need them to find you interesting. The relationships you can't seem to fix, and the people you're still trying to impress. To do all of this, Goulston uses a few insightful techniques that turn the conversation around and make you understand what a better communicator looks like. Here are a few of the insights I took away from this thought-provoking book.

1. You must work within the cycle. The cycle is the pattern that someone goes through when you are trying to get them to do something. By skipping any step in this cycle, you won't get the same results, so you must be patient.

  • First, the receiver is resisting everything you say. They don't want to be tricked into doing anything, so the answer is simply "no." By using the right strategies, you can get them to listen, then consider and eventually they will be willing to do what you're selling them. Afterwards, you must get them to be glad they did it in order to get them to continue to do it.

2. By using your mirror neurons, you are able to connect on a deeper level. Everyone has three parts to their brain, and by understanding the brain your partner is using, you are better able to match them and make them feel like you're connecting.

  • The first is the reptile brain, which thinks in terms of "fight or flight," or more scientifically known as your amygdala. At this stage, you have to mirror their sense of urgency and importance in the matter.
  • The second brain is the reptile one, which focuses on emotions. While you may want to stick to facts and figures, if the person you're communicating with is thinking purely on emotions, you have to speak their language.
  • The final brain is the primate, which thinks in terms of logic and rational matters. When someone is using this part of their brain, you will have to meet them there with your own logical brain rather than your emotions on the matter.

3. Make the other person feel felt. Goulston quotes the psychologist Abraham Maslow: "Self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship and connection, as if all people were members of a single family." By showing that you truly understand the people around you, you allow them to let down their barriers. This is where transformative relationships begin to take place.

4. Be more interested than interesting and you will never be bored again. If your Facebook account is anything like mine, you often log on to find a newsfeed full of engagement announcements, cute new-baby pictures and long-winded statements about how well someone's doing because they found a new workout program. People love to talk about themselves and believe that broadcasting their success makes them interesting. While this may work online, it doesn't translate well to the in-person conversations. By asking questions and getting someone to talk, you will come across as a much more interesting person than if you ramble on about your own exciting life of constant travel and accomplishments.

5. Power Thank You and Apology. Often times, we are in a position to help someone. Whether that be buying a homeless man lunch or donating money to your friend's charity, it usually feels good to help. While your friend would normally thank you for the donation, what if they went above and beyond? What if she picked out a card that had a special meaning to you and wrote a detailed note about how much the donation means to her and what the contribution allowed her to do? You'd feel even better as person, and closer to her for sharing such a special moment. The same goes for an apology. You could say "I'm sorry," or you could detail what you're apologizing for, how that impacted the person and what you intend to do next time. By using the power thank you and apology, you make people feel felt, and closer to you.

Overall, Goulston's book is about understanding people and how to get into their worlds. It takes time to form a relationship, but can be more authentic and meaningful when you use these tactics. By taking the time to understand who they are, what they want and how you fit into that puzzle, you'll be better suited for an equally beneficial relationship.