In his book, Just Listen, Dr. Mark Goulston shares some invaluable insights on how to get through to people and make a connection with them as quickly as possible.
Today on the show he shares: how to win over investors, why people need to feel "felt" in addition to listened to, an approach to handling bullies, and more.
02:53 – An audio platform and unqualified advice. Dr. Mark shares his experience and how he feels about uninformed advice.
05:36 – Seeing the angel in the marble. Discover what sculpture and investors have in common.
07:22 – Is that smile a yes? Turn a possible rejection to your favor.
11:42 – An experiment with a podcast host. What does Dr. Mark pick up about James?
16:04 – Here’s how you handle a bully. Sometimes, the less you say, the better.
27:52 – The chemical reactions of feeling “felt”. It goes beyond being understood.
30:51 – How to handle someone else’s agitation. Avoid a common mistake and maintain your own composure.
32:34 – How “feeling” can prevent suicide. This patient seemed a lost cause…
38:37 – The most important thing you can get out of this episode. Our guest offers THIS takeaway.
Today’s podcast guest has quite the track record. Dr. Mark Goulston is an MD, a business psychiatrist, a Marshall Goldsmith MG100 coach, a founding member of Newsweek, and creator and co-founder of Michelangelo Mindset. He’s helped founders and entrepreneurs and CEOs, and is author or co-author of nine books.
One book in particular, Just Listen, has put Dr. Mark on the map. It’s been translated into 28 languages, and is becoming the top book in listening in the world.
For resources on our guest and his many achievements, you can visit MarkGoulston.com.
Seeing the angel in the marble
James’s goal in this episode is to extract insights from the good doctor’s depth of knowledge that will be useful to the listener.
Dr. Mark obliges right out of the gate with the Michelangelo Mindset, something he’s started in the last six months, that you can find out about at MichelangeloMindset.com. And it references a quote from Michelangelo, that he saw an angel in a mass of marble, and he carved until he had set it free.
Michelangelo didn’t push the statue into the marble, says Dr. Mark. He saw it was there. And from this analogy, Dr. Mark has developed a course that he calls Michelangelo Entrepreneur. The cohort to which he teaches this course is currently looking for money from investors. And Dr. Mark tells them that inside every investor is someone who wants to give them their money.
Inside every customer, he says, a client is someone who wants to buy from you. Inside talent you would like to attract, to build your company, is someone who wants to work for you. And inside whatever people you have in your company are people who want to become raving fans of you. The key is to find that or see it and scrape away everything that gets in the way.
Is that smile a yes?
Dr. Mark gives the example of meeting with an investor. You show them a PowerPoint, and three minutes in, they smile. Is it a smile of assent? Are they ready to hand over their money the moment the presentation’s over?
Investors don’t smile, says Dr. Mark, because it’s about money. They smile because three minutes in they’ve decided it’s a no. And they don’t want to be rude.
What you can do in that instance, says our guest, is to ask the investor if you can pause. This, he says, will make them nervous, and at the same time disarm them. Tell them that when the presentation began, they had money to invest, and you were a company that needed it. Now, at this point, they still have money to invest, but you’re not going to get any of it.
Ask the investor what they were looking for that the slides failed to show them. And if that would make a great investment for them, you’d see if it was something you could cover.
Ask them to talk about an investment that really worked out well for them, and what made it a winner. And ask them to talk about an investment that they would not want to replicate.
At the end you might have to tell them their requirements don’t fit your company. But you can offer to introduce them to companies that would fit the bill. And in that way you’re dedicated to their success. That’s Michelangelo listening.
An experiment with a podcast host
Dr. Mark suggests an experiment with James. What he’s picked up from his host is that he has over 800 episodes. He has listeners and viewers who trust him, who have confidence in him. And he wants to honor their trust and confidence by not wasting their time. And so what he’s listening for, the doctor thinks, is guests who can provide information that is relevant to his listeners and viewers, that is clear, concise, and actionable. Because their trust and confidence in him matters.
That would be true, says James.
So, asks Dr. Mark, can James feel the internal experience of, I really appreciate my listeners and audience? I know they’re all busy. I know they don’t want to waste their time. I want to give them something that is truly valuable to them.
It’s always been the premise, says James. We live in a world where people do get busy. So he keeps his episodes to a length and cadence that is consumable and not overwhelming for his audience.
The night before the interview, he read Dr. Mark’s book, looking to cherry pick the things most relevant to his audience. Two words come to mind: relevance and context. His job is to ask his guest the questions that his audience most want answered. And he wants to avoid what many podcast hosts do, which is employing a tired, overused template for their interview.
Ideally, says James, his audience will get enough information from this episode that they will want to buy Dr. Mark’s book and go deeper. Because books, books and sleep, have been James’s strength in business. And Dr. Mark has some great actionable frameworks in his book.
Here’s how you handle a bully
One in particular James would like him to share is how he handles bullies.
Dr. Mark recalls when he worked in the OJ Simpson trial. There was a day he was sequestered because a character in the trial, detective Mark Fuhrman, had said during the trial that he had never used the N word. There were audio tapes, however, that proved he had. And so on that day he took the Fifth Amendment, meaning he wouldn’t testify. Everyone in the world who was interested in the case saw it, except for Dr. Mark, because he was sequestered, to be questioned by defense attorney F. Lee Bailey. If Furman had not taken the Fifth Amendment, it could have been found out that he had perjured himself.
In the hours when Dr. Mark was waiting, he says, he learned 80 percent of what he knows about difficult people – not just yellers and screamers, but the ones who stonewall, who give you the silent treatment, who play the victim card.
On that day, F. Lee Bailey would do what 80 percent of difficult people do, and that would be to turn on the charm. Difficult people can be charming, says Dr. Mark, but then they’ll do something to frustrate you, and then to anger you. Then they’ll do something outrageous, which makes you want to become enraged. But most people are uncomfortable being enraged, they feel off balance, and they will then focus all their energy on not verbalizing that rage.
As expected, F. Lee Bailey was charming at first. But then he employed innuendo. To innuendo is a way of making statements as a way to maneuver someone to being vulnerable. Dr. Goulston, he said, we don’t know what your role is here in the trial. Dr. Mark, at this point, had his eyes held on the attorney’s, something he’d learned to do as a suicide prevention specialist. And instead of responding, Aha, and becoming more vulnerable. He just blinked.
We need to find out what your role was with detective Mark Fuhrman, said F. Lee. And again Dr. Mark just blinked.
The prosecutor who was with them said, Mark, you haven’t said anything. He hasn’t asked me a question, the doctor responded. And he looked again into F. Lee Bailey’s eyes, at which the attorney flinched.
As F. Lee started asking questions, Dr. Mark remained silent. And then F. Lee raised his voice: So you are here to say that you never medicated, you never coached, you never did anything to affect Detective Mark Fuhrman’s testimony.
Dr. Mark counted to seven, then cleared his throat. The whole room leaned towards him. He counted to seven again. And then said, Mr. Bailey, my mind wandered the last five or six minutes. And I think what you were talking about was important. Can you run it by me again?
What? the attorney exclaimed. What did I say? he asked one of his partners. He repeated some of it. Dr. Mark said, Mr. Bailey, it’s been a long day. And I think you want me to say something, and I’m not saying it. If you can tell me what it is you’d like me to say and admit to, I’ll be happy to say it, because I’m tired. But if it’s not the truth, I’m going to have a problem with that.
F. Lee Bailey said to Dr. Mark and the prosecutor, I don’t think we have to call Dr. Goulston on the witness stand. And he turned to leave.
Mr. Bailey, said Dr. Mark, I have a question for you. Yesterday in front of the world, you associated me with someone who is now perceived to be one of the most racist cops in America. You slurred me. Do you have any idea how we can unslur a slur? The attorney left the room, then came back. I will trade you a retraction in tomorrow’s newspaper, he said, if you tell me what you figured out about me.
It was worth it, says James. Because as described in Dr. Mark’s book, we encounter toxic people. Listeners may have toxic clients who bully them or toxic employees who are territorial or not playing friendly with other team members.
“We have to be better armed in terms of understanding ourselves.”
Dr. Mark, he said, gave a great technique for handling team members who weren’t cohesive, and it made James chuckle. He’d handled a team of losers once in his own career, and dealt with it in a similar way. Then, of course, we have people from the public – these days, it’s not hard to wade into a debate on Facebook. We have to be better armed in terms of understanding ourselves.
The chemical reactions of feeling “felt”
Another factor Dr. Mark talks about is the mirror. Within every person, there is that person who wants to be felt. And if you can acknowledge that, you can really defuse the situation.
Feeling felt, says the doctor, is different than merely feeling understood. Feeling understood can be clinical, but there’s a distance. But when people feel felt, what happens is a surge of a hormone called oxytocin.
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone. It’s what enables young mothers to not scream at their screaming infants who won’t go to sleep. So oxytocin, when it’s high, counteracts something called high cortisol. And cortisol is associated with stress.
“The more you can cause someone to feel felt, the more they will calm down.”
It’s great to meditate. It’s good to do breathing exercises. But even more effective or an addition is when you can feel felt in a situation. The more you can cause someone to feel felt, the more they will calm down.
How to handle someone else’s agitation
There’s a chapter in Just Listen called How to Go from OF to OK, a way to talk yourself down when you’re feeling agitated. But you can also use a FUD CRUD exercise, says Dr. Mark, which is in the book Talking to Crazy.
Say someone is venting. Telling them to calm down will often just agitate them more. What you can do is look them in the eye and say calmly, You seem frustrated, and I think you’re holding back (and here’s the FUD) because I think you’re also upset and disappointed. Can you fill me in? Because I’m sure you have all the reasons to feel that way. Let’s see if we can make this thing go away.
“Most people are comfortable talking about being frustrated.”
You do it in that order because if you say to someone, You seem upset, you seem angry, they’re going to get angrier. But most people are comfortable talking about being frustrated, as most people are frustrated every day.
How “feeling” can prevent suicide
In his work with suicidal patients, Dr. Mark has used an approach called surgical empathy. And there’s something people typically don’t know: when you’re suicidal, death is compassionate to hopelessness that won’t go away. So you keep it in your back pocket. If worse comes to worse, you can always end it all. Your pain feels understood by death.
Surgical empathy means you want to go in there and help them feel that you feel that pain, the way death feels that pain.
Dr. Mark once had a patient referred to him named Nancy. She’d made three suicide attempts before he saw her. She’d been in the hospital every year for two to three months. Dr. Mark didn’t think he was helping her at all. He was seeing her a couple of times a week, and she never made eye contact.
There was a Monday when he was sleep-deprived, covering for other psychiatrists. And during his session with Nancy, all the color in the room suddenly turned to black and white. He got chills. He thought he was having a stroke or a seizure, but a quick neurological exam checked out.
The crazy idea hit him that he was seeing the world as Nancy saw it, colorless and cold. And he said something he would not have normally said. Nancy, I didn’t know it was so bad. And I can’t help you kill yourself. But if you do, I will still think well of you. I will miss you. And maybe I’ll understand why you had to, to get out of the pain.
For the first time, she looked at him. And she said, Thank you for understanding. If you can really understand why I might have to kill myself to get out of all the pain, maybe I won’t need to. And she smiled.
Dr. Mark floated an idea to her. That they would not try another treatment unless she asked to. Nancy agreed. And from that point on, she began to get better.
“People are so self-absorbed, they’re not really thinking about other people that much.”
That was powerful, says James. It reminded him of natives who meet and look into each other’s eyes, and say, I see you. And then the other one says, I see you. And they walk off. People now are so self-absorbed, they’re not really thinking about others that much.
Dr. Mark tells a tale he’s not sure is true. Twenty-five years ago, a native from a primitive country came to Manhattan. When someone asked them, What do you think of Manhattan? the native said, they don’t see the sky because of the skyscrapers. And then in the last three years, the native came back. And the same person asked, what do you think of Manhattan now? And the native said, They don’t see each other, because they’re looking at their mobile phones.
The most important thing you can get out of this episode
Wrapping up, James suggests getting the book, Just Listen. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and it contains lots of useful frameworks. Of course, visit Dr. Mark’s website, MarkGoulston.com, check out his other resources. But what is the most important message he’d like to leave with people?
Dr. Mark recommends two questions to ask someone who cares about you, believes in you, and wants the best for you. First, What would be the positive effect on my success, respect that people have for me, in our relationship, if I became a better listener, small, medium, large?
People will likely say Medium. But then look them in the eyes, and ask, What has already been the negative effect? When I have been at my absolute worst, talked over, interrupted, rolled my eyes, what has already been the negative effect when I’ve been at my absolute worst as a listener, in terms of my success, people’s respect, in our relationship, small, medium, large?
The answer will be, Large. Then ask them to tell you the last time you did that. And don’t defend yourself. Then look in their eyes, and say, you deserve better. I’m going to fix this. And I’m sorry.
James loves it. He sees a repeating pattern: establish a gap with real clarity, and then seek a solution to work on this newly discovered refined gap.
Dr. Mark slips in an exercise he thinks James and listeners might like, the HUVA exercise. If you practice it just once a day for a week, he says, it will change everything. You think of a conversation each day in which you want to be present, meaning show up in the best possible way as a great connector and listener.
You pick that conversation, and grade yourself from the other person’s point of view. According to HUVA, you ask yourself, on a scale of one to 10, how much did they feel Heard out? Did you interrupt them? Did you change the subject? Did you seem bored? On a scale of one to 10, U, how much did they feel understood? Did you ask them to clarify? Did you ask them to say more about something?
On a scale of one to 10, how much did they feel Valued? Did you emphasize or remark on what they said? And then the final A is, how much do they feel that you added value to what they had to say?
James has done a great job in this interview, says Dr. Mark. A 10, 10, 10, 10.
James is humbled. It was a conversation he really wanted to be present for, out of respect for Dr. Mark’s depth of experience.
He recommends, again the book, Just Listen, and for more resources, Dr. Mark’s site, MarkGoulston.com.
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