For Real Influence, Listen Past Your Blind Spots

For Real Influence

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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More than ever before, people see through the self-serving tactics and techniques that others use to persuade them. They don’t like being pushed, played or nudged to comply, and they resist and resent agenda-driven influencers.

The alternative is to use real influence to inspire buy-in and commitment. To learn how the best-of-the-best do it, we conducted over 100 extensive interviews with highly respected influencers from all walks of life for our recent book.

We found that great influencers follow a pattern of four steps that we can use too. An earlier post covered Step 1: Go for great outcomes. Later we’ll cover Step 3: Engage them in “their there” and Step 4: When you’ve done enough… do more.

Here we cover Step 2: Listen past your blind spots.

To invite genuine buy-in and engagement, we need to listen with a strong personal motive to learn and understand. But we have a “blind spot” in our brains that gets in the way. What we hear is easily distorted with our own needs, biases, experiences and agenda, even when our intentions are good. We often hear what others say without understanding what they mean. We hear what it means to us, not what it means to them.

We outline four different levels of listening, and the first three fall short of what’s needed for achieve real influence.

[Here are the first two.]

Level One: Avoidance Listening = Listening Over

Listeners who listen over others are the people who say, “Uh huh,” while clearly showing no interest in what the other person is saying. They look preoccupied, and they usually are. Sometimes they don’t even stop checking their e-mail or texting on their phones while they’re “listening.” Level one listening can annoy, exasperate, or even infuriate the person who’s talking.

Level Two: Defensive Listening = Listening At

This is listening with your defenses up, preparing your counterpoints while the person is talking. It’s being quick to react and slow to consider. They’re often seen as high maintenance, and over time, people avoid them because they’re exhausting. This is the kind of listening that prompted Mark Twain to say, “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A. is a business psychiatrist, executive consultant, keynote speaker and co-founder of Heartfelt Leadership. John Ullmen, Ph.D. oversees and teaches at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. They are co-authors of Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In (AMACOM, 2013). To check out all their HBR articles, please click here.

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