just listen

Just Listen: The Secret to Getting Through to Anyone, With Mark Goulston – PS036

Episode Overview

In this conversation, Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, shares personal stories from very early on, when he was given multiple chances by people who saw the goodness in him.  Mark felt he had been touched by an angel and has devoted his life to paying it forward.  This is a beautiful conversation.  You will be touched by the heart and wisdom of my guest.

Episode Introduction

Just Listen: Secret to Getting Through to Anyone, With Mark Goulston

Mark Goulston is a business consultant, coach, speaker, former FBI hostage negotiation trainer, and psychiatrist.  Mark is the author of seven books, including Get Out of Your Own Way and co-author of Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving in. He blogs for Huffington Post and Psychology Today. He also co-hosts a weekly radio show and is featured frequently in major media, including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, NPR, CNN, Fox News, and the TODAY show. He lives in Los Angeles. (See links to some of Mark's work at the end of this post).

Just Listen: The Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

Just ListenMark’s impetus for the book, Just Listen came out of his clinical work as a Suicidal Prevention Therapist.  In this episode, Mark shares a personal story of a specific life-changing experience when he mirrored the feeling of his suicidal patient, Nancy.  In a moment, Mark saw the world and felt it through Nancy’s eyes.  When he reflected to Nancy his feelings: “I didn’t know it was so bad … I understand why you are going through this,” she made eye contact with Mark for the first time.  “If you can understand my situation, maybe I don’t have to kill myself.” was her response. She knew he had seen the world through her eyes.  She felt heard, she felt felt and it was that connection that enabled her to move on.

This episode contains many such heartfelt personal stories, that illustrate to us what can happen when we see the world through others’ eyes.

I am not alone in finding this book so powerful.  It reached #1 ranking in six kindle business categories at Amazon.com and #1 in China and Germany for US business books.

Mirror Neuron Gap

Neuroscience increasingly helps us understand how our brain works.  One of the discoveries are mirror neurons which are responsible for imitation, learning and empathy.

We feel the mirror neuron gap when we don’t feel heard or understood by others.  The gap occurs because we feel something in missing in our lives or our relationships.

The more you care about outside world and you conform your emotions to the needs of the outside world, a strong hunger builds up to have the world care about you.  You want to be cared for.  If it’s not reciprocated, this mirror neuron gap widens.

So, when you experience kindness in unsolicited way, you are so deeply touched, you are likely to  cry with relief because the mirror neuron gap is filled up and you feel whole.

When we feel truly heard or understood, the mirror neuron gap closes.

Be a First Class Noticer

Be a first class noticer, because when you do, you connect more deeply and begin to strengthen relationships.  This was an early lesson from Mark’s life long mentor, the late Warren Bennis.

First class noticing takes you out of yourself and your self preoccupation. Noticing things outside yourself frees you to be very present.

Focus on Customer Experience by Improving your Noticing Skills

If you or your business is in any way focused on customer experience, Mark highly recommends you become  a first class noticer.

Go out in the world notice what people are smiling and about and what frustrates them. Notice what they are noticing. Notice the customer experience.

Mark offers some excellent advice about how to improve your noticing skills.

Conversation deepeners

Mark shares some great practices to deepen conversations with all kinds of people. Listen intently to their language – how they use adverbs and adjectives, and their inflection.  In addition, watch how people invest more of themselves in the conversation with their hands and how they lean in.  Get where they are really coming from.

Diamond Rule

Do unto others as someone who loved you did unto you.

The most powerful action you can take from such a gift is to forever pay it forward!

When Mark’s experienced, at a young age, that someone cared for him deeply, stood by him in a crisis, stood up for him against the odds and stopped him from doing something foolish, his life was transformed.

Mark’s insight from this transformational experience was to honor such a kindness by paying it forward and give a “Power Thank You” to the person, if you can.  (In Mark’s case, the person who helped him transform his life has since passed on, yet Mark continues to share the story, thanking him every time he does).

The Power Thank You

There are three parts to a power thank you once you make the commitment to pay it forward.

  1. Let them know what they did specifically
  2. Acknowledge the effort it took from them – honor how much they did for you and what it took
  3. Tell them what it personally meant to you. (The deep impact on your life and what it really did it for you)

Heal the World One Conversation at a Time.

Mark’s legacy question: Why am I here and what am I here to do?

Mark’s response: To heal the world one conversation at a time.

To this end, Mark has created an initative through patreon.com to bring such awareness globally and begin to facilitate the conversations that will heal.

Moreover, Mark’s site Heartfelt Leadership has a series of videos with significant conversation with leaders who are making a difference.  You will be inspired.

PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Mark's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint – It’s about paying it forward by modeling what was done to you to help you be the best you can be.

positivity lens


Downloadable Resources and Tools

Enter your details for instant access to this content

Click the button below to open your activity sheet for this episode:


Mark offers his perspective on positivity:  he offers up that it is a willingness and eagerness to believe.

A skeptic is someone who is reluctant to believe – who once believed, once was positive and was disappointed.

A Cynic is someone who refuses to believe or be positive. Cynics  will only believe or be positive if they are without the fear of being disappointed or deceived ever again.

Most want to believe, to be positive, but only if it’s safe.  Mark warns:

To be only safe, you’ll end up sorry.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode


[amazonjs asin=”0814436471″ locale=”US” title=”Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone”]

[amazonjs asin=”081442015X” locale=”US” title=”Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In”]

Mark's Articles/Papers


Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.