Excerpted from “Just Listen”  by Dr. Mark Goulston (pages 55-57)

Note from Bob:  Several years ago I just spent a great weekend with Dr. Mark Goulston!  Not in person – although I wish – but devouring his book “Just Listen” – filled with great questions that will absolutely “Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness X10!”  This is a must buy book for every leader and every coach!  I continue to refer to it often.  


Do you ever think in frustration: “I could get somewhere if only I could get this person interested in me?” That’s exactly what I’m talking about. But here’s the thing: embodied in your statement is the reason you’re not getting through.

Why? Because you’re focusing all your attention on what you can say to make that person think you’re cool or smart or witty. And that’s your mistake, because you’ve got it backward.

To figure out why, look at what two of the world’s most successful people do:

“Deep listening ” is one of the terms most often used to describe Warren Bennis(Since the publishing of  “Just Listen” in 2010, Warren Bennis passed in 2014 at age 89.) founding chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. Warren is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, but when you’re with him— I don’t care if you’re the guy parking his car, or the CEO of Google— he is more interested in you.

I saw this talent recently when I was invited to a dinner with some of his close friends who were all smart, thoughtful, and driven. As the evening progressed, lively dialogue turned into heated debate. Back and forth, these brilliant people fired salvos at each other, eventually reaching a point where I heard much more talking than listening.

Through it all, Warren sat with rapt attention and said nothing. At one point during a lull in the conversation, when the debating parties paused to reload their verbal ammunition, Warren stepped in and said to the more unrelenting of the debaters, “Bill, tell me more about that point you made about that philosopher.” By not entering into the debate and by inviting one of the participants to exhale, Warren changed the entire tenor of the conversation and made it better.

Jim Collins is also one of the most interesting people you could ever meet. He’s the author of Good to Great, one of the most successful business books of all time. He’s been published in 35 languages. He received the Distinguished Teaching Award from Stanford, and he’s climbed El Capitan— which puts him in the major leagues of rock climbing. But in a December 1, 2005 Business 2.0 article entitled: “My Golden Rule,” Collins explained why his rule is not to tell these interesting facts to everyone he meets:

I learned this golden rule from the great civic leader John Gardner, who changed my life in 30 seconds. Gardner, founder of Common Cause, secretary of health, education, and welfare in the Johnson administration, and author of such classic books as “Self-Renewal,” spent the last few years  of his life as a professor and mentor-at-large at Stanford University. One day early in my faculty teaching career— I think it was 1988 or 1989— Gardner sat me down. “It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting,” he said. “Why don’t you invest more time being interested?”

If you want to have an interesting dinner conversation, be interested. If you want to have interesting things to write, be interested. If you want to meet interesting people, be interested in the people you meet— their lives, their history, their story. Where are they from? How did they get here? What have they learned? By practicing the art of being interested, the majority of people can become fascinating teachers; nearly everyone has an interesting story to tell.

What wise men like Warren Bennis (and no doubt Dale Carnegie) instinctively know, and what “smarter than wise” younger, ambitious people like Jim Collins and yours truly are still learning, is that:

The way to truly win friends and influence the best people is to be more interested in listening to them than you are in impressing them.
Mark Goulston


Mark Goulston, M.D.,is a psychiatrist, consultant, business coach focusing on founders, and is the author of Just Listen,  Get Out of Your Own Way and most recently,Talking to Crazy.  He is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Fast Company and Psychology Today.  He is frequently quoted or featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and on CNN, NPR, Fox News, and BBC-TV.  Mark lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.  For more information visit: contact him:


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