How do you get people to do what you want in tough situations? The answer to that question is in the book Just Listen. It was written by Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist, consultant and business coach.
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Mark Goulston is a psychiatrist, consultant and business coach.
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Let’s get started. Hey, everyone. I’m Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. When I say ‘ambitious upstart’, I mean you. That entrepreneur who’s out there building a business and is so ambitious to do it right and is so eager to leave a mark on this world that instead of, I don’t know, watching a fun viral video on YouTube, you’re going to tune in for an hour here to arm yourself and prepare yourself to grow your business and leave your mark on the world. That’s the kind of person I want in my life and that’s why I’m eager to get this right for you.
This interview is going to be focused around this one big question: how do you get people to do what you want in tough situations? The answer to that question is in this book, “Just Listen”. There we go. ‘Just Listen’. It was written by the man you see in front of you, Mark Goulston. He’s a psychiatrist, a consultant and a business coach, and a man who I’ve known for a long time. Mark, thanks for coming and doing this interview.
Mark: My pleasure. Thank you again. I can hardly wait to find out what we’ll talk about.
Andrew: You say that because you know that in addition to having someone here internally read the book and put together an outline, we got on the phone with you and did a pre-interview. You and I are looking at a set of notes because I am so determined to get every part of my interview right that I will not allow chit-chat and I will structure every part of this for the audience. All right. Let’s go right into it. I want the audience to understand the problem. The kind of problem the book addresses and that this interview will teach them how to solve, can you tell people the problem that one boss that you worked with had with an employee named Vince? I think that will help illustrate it.
Mark: The problem this boss had with this employee named Vince is that Vince was a slacker. He came in late, left early, seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. I asked the boss “Why are you keeping him?” and he said, “You know, he does a good job when he does it. But he’s demotivating and people look at me like why are you putting up with him”. So I said, “So how are you getting him motivated to do the right thing and not slack.” He says, “Well, I pointed it out to him. I criticize him. Now when I’m with him and he gives me an excuse I tend to look up at the ceiling like why do I have this guy. I have this guy because it would be easier to try and fix him and turn him around than to replace him.” I said, “How’s that working for you? The criticizing, pointing out things.” He smiled at me and he says, “He’s starting to leave even earlier.” I said, “You know, I think part of what Vince is probably feeling, if he has a chip on his shoulder, he’s trying to get away, is he probably doesn’t feel important.
I’m also guessing as I listen in to Vince, that he’s probably someone who’s never been apologized to in his life by an authority figure.” That’s not uncommon. Most people that I know will say, “I can’t ever remember a sincere apology.” It sounds like you’re criticizing him, about to give up on him, it’s something that’s counter-productive. Why don’t you go up to him and say, “I’m a little disappointed with our recent interactions.” He’s going to get defensive. He’s going to look at you like “Here it goes again”. What you say is I’m disappointed in me. What I’m disappointed in is you do good work but I think my way of approaching you and criticizing you my frustrations and even my sheathings that’ll be coming off. And there’s got to be a better way for me to just tell you what I need you to do and I apologize. And what happened is Vince got a little tearful. And I think Vince got a little tearful because we were right on. Vince had that attitude because nobody had ever apologized to him. What was the net result? Vince came in on time, stayed late, the chip fell off his shoulder, and the boss was a happy camper.
Andrew: What I like about that story is first of all, that’s a problem that I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs and they’ve told me that they’ve had that. That they have an employee that’s not coming in on time, not producing the way they want them to. And often they’re worried that if they say anything that the person is going to leave. Or that they’re going to say the wrong thing and the person is going to cause sabotage. And they’re trying to figure out what’s the right thing to say. And you’re coming up with something that we wouldn’t have thought of, something that’s counter intuitive, something that, it wouldn’t naturally occur to us. I’m babbling over here. I should have just left that story as is instead of trying to sum it up.
Mark: Well, when you bring up something, can I add another tip that’s counter intuitive?
Andrew: Yes, please. Since apparently I’m not doing a good job of connecting this with the audience, I should leave it to you.
Mark: Well, at least, it’s not chitchat, Andrew.
Andrew: Right, thank you.
Mark: It’s just, stumbling’s a . . .
Andrew: I’ll take a failure over chitchat.
Mark: I’m a great believer that when you have skin on the game.
Mark: It causes other people to have skin on the game. And for me in communication, skin in the game is really saying what you feel as oppose to reacting to what you feel. So one of the things I suggest to people who are really frustrated with their employees is to pause and do something that I call the wince confrontation. And the wince confrontation means it’s got to pain you to criticize this person as oppose to anger you.
And what that would look like in another interaction would be to say to someone I’m getting dangerously close to rooting against you. And you’ve got to show pain at that. And if you’re the boss, you can say it makes no sense for me to have people here that I don’t enthusiastically root for. And the reason I’m getting close to rooting against you is because you say A and you do B. And then you make an excuse for it and I know you can do better. Because that’s why we hired you.
And before I start to root against someone I think I will take other steps, which is it doesn’t make sense to be here. But if you can show that, that’s showing skin on the game. That you don’t want to root against people. You want to root for them and this person by their behavior is causing you to be close to rooting against them.
Andrew: Instead of just getting frustrated and lashing out.
Andrew: All right. We have a list of tactics here that we want to communicate to the audience. You want to start with the first one? What is the first one that we teach the audience?
Mark: OK. Well, in my book there is a, everyone loves this chapter, it’s called the Oh F* fill in the blank, the Oh F* to OK. And what Oh F*** to OK means is that when something goes wrong, someone upsets you, you go to deaf con one. And deaf con one means saying you [inaudible] what does oh f* mean?
Andrew: Wait, when you’re moving the paper on the mike it’s causing some trouble with the mike, sorry. So what does Oh f* mean is what you were saying.
Mark: The Oh f* is your reaction faze. And what that means is this is a disaster, I’m screwed, what the heck just happened. I can’t fix it, it’s all over. It’s kind of like Chicken Little. And so you’re highly reactive. And if you go through these in your mind what happens is, is you calm yourself down. The next step is to say, oh Gawd, and for those people who don’t want me to be blasphemous you can spell it G-A-W-D. And that’s the release faze. And what you’re saying is, Oh my Gawd this is a huge mess, I’m going to get stuck cleaning it up. Sh. This stuff always happens to me.
Andrew: I was wondering actually the reason I wanted you to read that tactic is because I was wondering how you were going to say it. I’ve know you for a while and I don’t think I’ve ever heard you curse. And I thought let’s see if it’s in the book, is he going to curse or is he going to find another way to say it and you said Oh F to OK instead of the full word.
Mark: You’re helping me because I’ve become rather vulgar lately. And I hate it. I think it’s slippery, I think it’s lazy. And anyway that’s a whole other intricate.
Mark: The next step again, not to be blasphemous is the Oh Jeez and that’s J-e-e-z. And that’s how you re-center yourself.
Mark: And what you’re really thinking is OK, I can fix this, but it’s not going to be any fun. Then the next stage is ‘Oh, well’, meaning it happened. And that’s the refocus stage. What you’re saying is “I’m not going to let this ruin my life or my career or my day or this relationship. This is what I need to do to make it better.” The final phase is “OK”. That’s when you reengage. ‘I’m ready to fix this.’ Just very briefly, it’s “Oh, F. Oh, God. Oh, jeez. Oh, well. OK.” In between those steps, you breathe. You exhale. What you’ll find is you’ll go from that reactive to getting it off your chest without acting on it and you’ll be re-centered.
One of my favorite examples of this, and one of the CEOs that I admire most, is a fellow named Jim Mazzo, who was the CEO of something called Advanced Medical Optics which was bought by Abbott. It’s not Abbott Medical Optics. Years ago, I called him because one of his products, they have ophthalmic products. One of them is Blink. A lot of people know that who use contact lenses. I called him to say how much I admired him because one of his products was doing something to corneas and he just pulled it off the market. He didn’t check with his board, he didn’t check with anyone.
It was very similar to the person who pulled Tylenol off the market. I told him “I really admire you.” He picks up the phone and says, “Mark, I’m giddy with excitement” I said, “You better close the door. You sound crazy.” He said “No, no. I’m excited.” I said “What are you excited about?” I think he naturally went from “Oh, F. to OK.” He said “We have a good company. You don’t plan for disasters. They happen. I know this is going to make me stronger and make the company better. I just don’t know how yet. So I’m really excited because I know within days to weeks I’m going to learn things about my company and myself that will make it much better had this disaster not happened.”
Andrew: What you’re saying the natural reaction when we’re facing a disaster or someone’s getting in our way or not doing what we need them to do is to freak out and then to go on the aggressive mode against them or the situation or just feel sorry for ourselves. You’re taking us from that place to a place of feeling this is OK. Can we just go from one to the other, because I’ll tell you that, you’re saying no, we have to go through a series of steps in order to get to OK, right?
Mark: I think if you go through those steps, they feel unnatural because the natural thing is to shoot from the hip when you’re angry but then you shoot yourself in the foot. Actually, the best example if I can tell, I think, the best story in the book, is when I watched Colin Powell, he was doing a keynote to the big real estate convention. He was being considered for president. This was in the mid-90s.
Someone in the audience asked him a question saying “General Powell, I understand that your wife was depressed, she had shock treatment, I think she was in a mental hospital. Do you want to comment on it?” He has 10,000 people in the Dallas Auditorium and I thought Colin Powell was going to slug him or he was going to get really prim and proper and politically correct or just ignore the person. But this is what he said. He zipped. He went from “Oh, F. to OK to here goes in a matter of seconds.” Imagine this. He looks at the guys and he says “Excuse me, sir. The person you love more than anyone else in this world is living in hell and you don’t do everything you can to get them out? Do you have a problem with that, sir?”
I can tell you, I still get the chills when I think about that. In the book, one of the things that actually helps you go from “Oh, F. to OK” is a formula. Aggression plus principle or mission equals conviction. Aggression minus principles or minus mission equals hostility. When you can find something that you can wrap your aggression around, you speak with conviction. When you don’t have it you speak with hostility.
Often when I coach highly gifted and talented entrepreneurs, I’ll take them aside and I’ll say, “You are dishonoring the talent you have that God doesn’t give to a lot of people and these things you’re doing are distracting from it. You’re dishonoring the fact that you were given the talent and the ability to do this. You owe it to that gift to not do some of these stupid things that you do.”
Andrew: So, let me see if I understand this. Next time somebody does something to me that I get really upset about. Doesn’t show up for an interview or maybe copies something off my site, I don’t know what. Destroys some part of my site, I don’t know what it is that will get me upset next. But whatever it is, you’re saying get in touch with the mission. What is the mission? And express that mission that I have instead of expressing my hostility in the moment that can help me.
Mark: Right. But you can add the aggression, which is not hostility, to the mission. And, if I were you, I would say, “I need to speak to you about something. My mission is to bring the best information to people wanting to succeed as entrepreneurs or in the Internet space. And in order to do that, there’s an honor code. This doesn’t reflect well on you because, if you take things from me and steal from me, sooner or later, you’re going to be caught by the people around you and you might want to think about that.”
Andrew: You know what? I did that once. I felt so dorky as I did it because I was baring my mission to someone one-on-one, and it helped a lot. It was someone who works here at Mixergy who consistently didn’t do what they needed to do. We have an operation that works like a machine. If one person doesn’t do what they need to do, then everything breaks down. And I got on the phone with them and I said, “Look. We have this mission,” and I expressed what the mission was. And I said, “When you’re not doing it, you’re letting the whole mission down.” And I talked about my vision for helping entrepreneurs and building this up and how big it was going to be. I felt like such a dork, but I’m so glad that I did. It cleared up the problem. It wasn’t magic, but sometimes the guy falls off the horse or off the wagon, but it was very effective. Can we go to the next one?
Mark: Oh no. I’m going to give you a little bit of coaching. I’m going to give you Monday morning coaching.
Andrew: Oh, good. OK. Hit me.
Mark: Something that I coach CEOs to do is, whenever you can, be declarative in how you speak as opposed to explanatory because when you have an explanatory tone, it invites negotiation from the other person. But if you declare your mission, what you’re doing is you’re taking a stand. You’re not being hostile, but you’re saying, “This is what we stand for. This is what I stand for. Do you understand?” That stops negotiation. But if you’re trying to convince someone and explain something to someone, and if there’s a little bit of complaining in your voice, it lessens your authority.
Andrew: I see. So it’s not “The mission here is to help entrepreneurs build their businesses and I have this vision and this dream for building this company up.” It’s not that. It’s “This is the mission. Do you understand it? Well, the way that we’re going to get this done is if everyone does their part when they say that they’re going to and, consistently, you haven’t been doing that. Do you see how that hurts the mission?”
Mark: Can you feel the difference in your voice?
Andrew: Yeah. Assertive, but not aggressive.
Mark: Right. Good.
Andrew: OK. The next one is rewire yourself to listen. How do we do that?
Mark: Let’s see. I’m trying to think. I’m blocking for a second.
Andrew: All right. We’ve got a story here about an assistant who habitually doesn’t get to work on time and makes mistakes and the pre-judgment that is made until her extenuating circumstances are discovered.
Mark: OK. A lot of times, we think we’re listening, but we’re really not. What we do is we listen through a filter. And so, if in your mind, a person is coming in late, and I would say to you, let’s say they come in late again. Let’s say it’s a Monday. They come in late again. What are you thinking? Lazy. Sloppy. Slacker. Not unlike Vince. Why do I even have this person around? So you’re already pre-agitated to be upset, to jump down their throat, to just throw your hands up and avoid them. But if, instead, you were to say to that person in a calm tone, “What’s with the late today? How come you were late?” And if that person said to you, “I know you feel that I’m late all the time and I even got the work done that I’m usually late on. I did it over the weekend. But last night, my grandfather called me because my grandmother, who he’s very dependent on, had a stroke and I had to go in to the hospital all night long. My grandfather depends on me and he’s kind of losing his memory.
So, I’ve had a terrible night, but I got all my work done for today because I know that’s an issue with you and I’m sorry.” Chances are that would change your listening. And so the point is we think we’re listening, but we always listen with a filter. If we can pause and say, “I’m wondering if there’s an alternate explanation,” and then you allow the alternate explanation. It’s something that will sometimes help you talk with the other person instead of talking at them.
Andrew: I see. By the way, lateness seems to be a big issue in businesses. When I hear people talk about employees who they want to get rid of in their companies, often not showing up on time or leaving early or not being present seems to factor in. Showing up early or on time is tough. All right. If someone didn’t show up on time in my company, I could in the back of my head say he doesn’t care about the business, he doesn’t care about showing up on time, he’s kind of checked out, he thinks I’m too easygoing. He thinks the mission or the business isn’t serious enough and that’s why he’s doing it.
If I come at the conversation with all those assumptions, I’m going to spoil the conversation. Instead, you’re saying listen. Don’t say “Hey, why are you late?” But “Why are you late?” It comes across different if you’re really interested as opposed to accusing the person of doing all those things. Of not caring about the company, of checking out, about trying to just get a salary for the minimum amount of work. Have I got that right?
Mark: It makes a lot of sense. A quick tip to add to that.
Mark: Too often, we are stuck in the moment. We are stuck in the transaction of the moment with whoever we’re with. We’re too transactional. Sometimes when you approach something, like the first person who said ‘I need to apologize’, if you were to say to this employee ‘I need your help with something. When your performance review comes up, your lateness is going to be a big mark against you. It’s going to effect your being promoted, it’s going to effect your getting a raise. I don’t have any control over that but you do. That’s going to be the consequence. If it continues and it really breaks down the functioning of the team, it could lead to something more serious and I don’t have any control over that outcome. You do. So I need your help so that you can continue to be a productive part of this company.’
Andrew: I see. Don’t make it about today. Don’t make it about today and yesterday. Go longer term. In our world, what we might do is, if you don’t show up on time, you know these other guys in the company are really hungry. They’re always looking to take on more responsibilities. Eventually, you’re not going to show up and they’ll take on some of your responsibilities and all of your responsibilities, and before long, you’re just going to be marginalized and out of here. Because everyone else who’s hungry is going to take over. Or they may end up selling this company and they’re going to look around and say ‘Who is the guy who’s the most helpful and who is the guy who’s least helpful? Let’s give the guy who’s most helpful a lot of stock and let’s make sure that he continues to grow in this acquiring company’s business. Let’s get rid of the people who are just sitting around. Think longer term. Think about that. I can’t help you in those situations where hungry people take over and I can’t help you if we sell and those people see that you’re not as productive as other people here. ‘ Am I getting it? Coach me if I’m not.
Mark: You’re getting it. I would say, though, the pitch of your voice is going up a quarter of an octave.
Andrew: I love that you notice stuff like that. Okay.
Mark: It communicates frustration and agitation and impatience. What you really want to do is the pitch of your voice needs to go down about a quarter to a third of an octave because that seems more definitive and authoritative. Because when your pitch goes up like this, what it communicates is the other person is getting to you and it creates a mutual anxiety and agitation. but you’re the boss so you get the last word. But it’s less definitive than your pitch going down. It doesn’t have to be slow but when your pitch goes down, people will feel, “he really means this”‘. Whereas when your pitch goes up, “He’s really ticked off at me”.
Andrew: I see. Let me ask you this. We’ve got a lot of big ideas that we’re going to cover and a lot of tactics. Many of them are as nuanced as the one you just expressed. I got it right but my tone was a little bit off. People are going to listen to this and say “This sounds really hard. Even if I get the tactic exactly right, I could still get it wrong by miscommunicating or misapplying it.” Maybe I should just say “Hey, dude. I’m paying you. You’re not showing up. If you continue to do that, you’re out of here. I’ve got other people to bring in if I need to”. Why not just speak your mind instead of trying to think of ways to dance around it? I know that’s something that my members in my audience are thinking of.
Mark: It’s interesting because your tone, if you listen to what you just said, the pitch wasn’t like this. It was more loud and firm. “Hey, dude!’ It was like ‘Hey, dude, you’re messing up.” Which is different. You weren’t showing exasperation. You were giving them not an ultimatum, but you were being much more definite. It’s very nuanced.
Andrew: So, is that okay, to just go in there and be very definite and not try to come up with ways to listen, but say “This is what you’re expected to do here. If you don’t do it, you’re out of here. I’m bringing someone else in.”
Mark: Love it.
Andrew: You do like that?
Mark: Yeah. I think the more definitive you can be, the better. I think the more definitive you can be, the better. I think the more you try and dress it up and dress up your exasperation, the less authority you have. And you think, well, how do people change? I’m coaching a CEO in the Midwest. After the first three minutes of speaking to him and listening to him, he’s expecting me to say something really profoundly insightful and I said, “You said ‘you know’ nine times in the last three minutes.” And he said to me, “You know, I don’t think I say that.” And then he spoke for two minutes and I said, “Six times.” And he said, “You know, I think you’re picking on something.”
And then he caught himself. He started laughing, and I said, “Look. The people around you can work around that and they’re used to it, but it’s distracting.” Now, I don’t know if that’s part of the Midwest and you say, “Oh well”, “You know,” but it takes away from the message and, if you can be intentional and catch yourself, you’ll be more articulate. So the last call we had, he said, “I really have good news. I don’t say ‘You know’ anymore. The bad news is I can’t stand it when other people say it.” And I said to him, “I’ve got even worse news for you. I picked it up and now I’m saying ‘You know’.” You know what I mean?
Andrew: Yeah. I do know what you mean.
Mark: Go ahead.
Andrew: Alright. I like that you’re not telling us to become wusses. You’re telling us to be clearer about what we’re saying and don’t hedge, don’t soften up your message. All right. Let’s go to the next one, which is to make the other person feel felt.
Mark: Down deep, most people feel alone, but they just sort of live with it. And they’re very task-oriented. When you help the other person feel that you not only understand them, but you feel where they’re coming from, it opens doors. And, for me, it’s life-long relationships with people. Most of the CEOs that I have a life-long relationship with is because I was listening between the words and I not only understand what they were saying, I understood what they were not saying, and I understood what they were feeling.
So, in this case, there was a CEO that had taken a long time to set up an appointment with and when I’m with him after three minutes, I can tell that the last thing he wants to be doing is be with me. Now, I’ve trained hostage negotiators and I can be rather direct. And so I said to him, in this direct, declarative tone, “Hey! How much time you got for me?” He’s a big CEO, and he looks up and I knew I was toast. And he said, “What?” I said, “Yeah. How much time you got for me?” And roughly, he said, “20 minutes.” And I knew I had one chance or else he was going to throw me out. And I said, “Look. We’re in to minute four and there’s something on your mind that’s much more important than being with me, and I think it’s much more important than even dealing with people in your company.
So let’s cancel the session for today. We can reschedule it or you can tell your assistant to never let this guy in my office again. But for the next 15 minutes, you take care of whatever is on your mind because it’s not fair to me. It’s not fair to other people. It’s not even fair to you. But take those 15 minutes, make a call, take care of whatever’s on your mind, and then we’ll reschedule it or you’ll be rid of me forever.” This is a big, tough guy. I think he played football. He had all these trophies and started to tear up. And I said to myself, “Mark, you promised yourself, when you get out into the tough world, don’t make people cry. You dumb shrink!” And he looked at me and he said, “You know, I’m a private guy. And you know something in 4 minutes that people 20 yards from me don’t know.”
And then he started to get choked up and he said, “My wife’s going in for a biopsy and it doesn’t look good. And my wife said, ‘You go to work.’ And my wife’s stronger than me, so I came to work, but I’m not all here.” Then my tone changed and I said, “Go to your wife. That’s where you should be.” And then he was like a big St. Bernard dog coming in from the rain and he went [slurping sound] like this. And then he got totally centered and he looked at me and then he said, “Now, I’m pretty strong. I served in Vietnam. I’m not as strong as my wife, but I’m totally here. You’ve got my undivided attention and you get your full 20 minutes.”
Mark: Does that make sense, Andrew, because he felt [inaudible] this thing.
Andrew: I’m just comparing it to what I learned to do when I’m in someone’s office, which is pursue the deal no matter what. You drive it in. You make sure that they’re convinced. And you make sure that you close the sale that you walked in the door to close and you don’t leave until you do. It’s that kind of bad advice that’s not nuance [inaudile] that doesn’t understand the world, that sends us in the wrong direction. Imagine if you would have done that. Imagine if you would have said, “Look, we booked 20 minutes here. You’re not giving me any of your time. Focus with me”.
Or if you would have started to persuade him if you were walking in there as a salesperson, trying to persuade him about why he should do business with you. How awful would that have been? He wasn’t in a place to listen to you. And if you would have just kept pursuing and pursuing, you would have just made your relationship with him worse and closed him off to you even more. Instead, yeah, I can see how just addressing how he felt is so powerful here.
Mark: Well, that brings up another thing. How often do you deal with men in deals over the age of 45 or 50?
Andrew: I don’t know.
Mark: Because more often you deal with younger people, but I’ll tell you a fact about men over the age of 45 and 50. They are much more concerned with not making another mistake and getting a win. Because those mistakes are cumulative and when men make a lot of mistakes they start to doubt their confidence and their competence and they’re not young anymore.
Mark: And so what happens is, if you’re dealing with a man 45 or 50 and they’re hesitant, and you explain everything, and they’re nodding in agreement, but they’re not engaging from the neck down. One of the things I suggest, and this is a way of helping them feel felt, is what I would say to someone like that, because what they’re communicating with their body is, “Yeah, this makes sense but I’m not going to do it.” What they’re really saying to you is, “I’ve been burned before and the last time I got burned I said to myself, “never again am I going to be in this position, because it’s awful.” And they don’t know if they’re going to get burned with you.
And so, one of the things you can say when you’re picking up and your convincing isn’t working, it’s like a 180 degree turn from persuading to understanding, helping them feel felt, if you were to say, “Let me ask you something. You’ve been burned before, haven’t you?”. They’re going to say, “What?”. And the, “What?” is, they’re all set to tune you out, and they’re going like this because you just got them, and they can’t hide from you. They’ll say, “What?”, and say “Yes, if you’re like all of us, people have promised things to you and they haven’t delivered, and I’m betting that some people promised some great things that went south, and when that happened, after you got finished being angry with them, you said to yourself, “Never again am I going through this again”. And you don’t know if doing a deal with me is going to be another never again, and is any of that true?”
Now, I’ll tell you close to 100% of the time it’s true. They’re disarmed and what you would say to them, if you have a good product and service and you have integrity, what you say is “Look, I’ve been burned before also. I know how bad it feels and I would never put anyone in that position. If we go forward, I’m not going to put you in that position. That said, nothing’s guaranteed and if we hit speed bumps and obstacles this is how I handle them. Is that the way you’d like them to be handled?”. How does that sound, Andrew?
Andrew: Amazing. I don’t even know what to say. I’m not even going to try to say anything.
Mark: Was it amazing because you weren’t listening or it was amazing?
Andrew: I’ll tell you why it’s amazing. There are a few things, you might have noticed that walking into this interview that I was a little but nervous for a few reasons, and I wanted this to go well because one of the reasons I wanted it to go well is, because I’ve known you for so long and when you told that story about walking into that CEO’s office, I knew this was, I mean, the guy who was frustrated whose wife had a tumor, I knew that you nailed it, and now when you’re telling me how to read a guy’s mind who I don’t know very well, and you’re giving me the exact script that I can use to talk to him about it, to show him that I understand that he’s worried about having this thing go south.
I get it, and I get him, and frankly I’m getting a little piece of myself, too. I’m wondering if as I continue, I start to worry about screwing up also. If I’m becoming that guy. I love that. I love that, and now I want to make sure that I give the audience more and more of that, which makes me feel even more nervous. Are people more nervous to interview you than, you’ve been interviewed before, have you found that the people that interview you are more nervous or more aware of themselves and what they say than if they would be ordinarily?
Mark: You’re the first. Just kidding.
Andrew: I’m the first.
Mark: No, No, No, No, No. My wife says to me, “You know, Mark, everyone thinks you’re reading their mind,” and I’ll tell you, here’s the interesting thing, and this is one of the key attitudes if you want to be a good leader.
Mark: Take charge, don’t be controlling and don’t be judgmental. So, I’m not judgmental, but I think a lot of people are worried that someone who’s smart is going to judge them. That I’m going to point out certain things and I’m going to be judgmental of them as opposed to having- I have an incredible positive regard for you. If you consider me a mentor, it would be an honor. So, there’s a kind of, what I . . . my persona, which allows me to coach so successfully, is I don’t want to be anyone’s father figure. I’m the big brother you always wanted. But that allows me to take you outside of a meeting and say “Andrew, what was that about? Cancel the meeting! If you go back in and that’s the way, no one’s listening. They’re on their Blackberry. No one’s getting it.” But it’s said with such affection and understanding that the people I coach just appreciate it.
Andrew: I think you may be the only human, the only man, who can say that to Jason Calacanis. There’s a guy who can out-talk anybody. I don’t know anyone who could say ‘Hey, Jason, I think you need to listen.’ Can you tell people about the conversation you had with Jason or is that too private?
Mark: It’s probably private.
Andrew: You didn’t tell me the conversation, you just told me the outcome of it. I want to be clear.
Mark: One of the things I said to him, and this may or may not be the conversation you were thinking of. Jason is incredibly smart.
Mark: He’s a quick study. One of the things we’ve talked about and I think Jason represents a certain kind of character type in the entrepreneur land, I said ‘One of the issues is that you need to be seen as more deliberate. When you’re a quick study people feel you haven’t deeply considered things. The thing is, you have considered it but you’re a quick study. To a lot of people, you’re going to trigger flashbacks of people who don’t consider what they’re saying. People need to experience you as being more deliberate. Especially when you want people to give you money who are fast-talking and not as smart as you.
One of the other things I’ve talked about is he’ll often get frustrated with people and I’ll say ‘You have to realize when you’re as smart as you, a lot of good people that you interact with and work with you, they’re good people but they’re not as smart as you. That’s why you’re the boss. If you treat them that they’re stupid, it’s hurtful. It’s insulting. You’re the boss because you are that smart.’
Andrew: So, you’re not telling him to recognize that everyone is smarter than him in some way and his job is to find that way? You’re saying, look, when it comes to business, you’re smarter than many of the people who work for you. Many of the people you interact with aren’t as smart as you. Recognize it. Don’t be patronizing to them. That’s what you’re essentially saying to him?
Andrew: That’s what you’re saying to my audience, too?
Mark: I think also after you get over the nervousness of ‘Will my startup become an early stage ‘, I think a job really is to develop your people as opposed to pushing them to perform. A lot of times in the early stages, you’re just really agitated. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Lou Wasserman, who was the head of MCA. One of the things he said was, “First you get on, then you get honest, then you get honors”.
Andrew: What does “First you get on” mean?
Mark: First on means whatever it takes.
Andrew: I see. Do whatever it takes first. Then you get honest. Then you get the honors.
Mark: Then, you get honest. Then you get honors.
Andrew: All right. Let’s move on to the next big idea, which is to be more interested than interesting.
Mark :I have a mentor named Warren Bennis. Warren Bennis is probably the top leadership guru alive today. I got that from him. I want to try it out about how to help someone be more interesting. A friend of mine told me that when you go to a conference, one of the things you would like to do is develop a relationship with one of the speakers. What this friend of mine, his name is Patrick Henry, he teaches at USC School of Entrepreneurship, he said to be the first person to ask a question after they speak because when there’s an awkward silence and you’re the speaker, the last thing you think is that you’ve been profound. It’s very awkward.
Also, the last thing you want is some person to ask a question that’s off the wall, like the Colin Powell story. Then you have to deal with an awkwardness. I went to a Staples store in the mid-Wilshire part of Los Angeles because Tom Stemberg, the founder, was going to be there along with small business people from Washington. I said, “I’m only going there to ask the first question. I don’t even know what the first question is.” I got really nutty about this. I said “I could position myself.” You know Staples, so they had a bunch of seats. “If I position myself here there might be an attractive woman behind me and when I talk, he’ll get distracted by her. But, jeez, these seats over here behind me are just boxes.
When I speak up, all he’s going to see is me and boxes.” I wanted to frame myself. I don’t want to distract him. What’s happening is the panel finishes speaking and I could see the guy with the microphone about to take questions. People end and he said “Let’s take some questions.” Before he got the word “questions” out, I said “Oh. I have a question.” Before he even said that. I’m quick on my feet because I’ve trained hostage negotiators and I didn’t really have a question formulated but I had three seconds before he got the mic over to me. He gives me the mic and I said to Tom Stemberg I said “What is something that if you had to do over again would have saved you a lot of hassles later on in your career?” I didn’t realize that’s a perfect question that people like to share, but, one of the things he said, and this might be interesting to your audience, he said ‘I would have done as much as I could without investors early because you want a head start.
As soon as people start finding out that you’re doing something, you get competitors. He said “Within a couple years, we had 12 competitors to Staples. We had to beat them all. What I would do differently is I would do whatever I could before other people and the investor community started to know that we were doing this because then you have to beat the competitors off and I would have waited longer.” What’s interesting when you get them to be more interesting to the audience, he was interesting to the audience, is the audience liked me for breaking the ice and asking a question they would like to hear the answer to, and he liked me for asking him a question that he would like to answer. I was able to follow up with Tom Stemberg after that.
Andrew: I just did a question and answer session over at Jason Calacanis’ launch conference. I remember I turned to the audience and said “Does anyone have a question” and no one raised their hands for the first few seconds because it’s a challenge to be the first person to ask. I thought “This thing is going to just fail. I need to come up with a solution. I need to get my way out of it.” The people who did jump in and ask questions and saved me from that situation, I thanked them internally and I was grateful to them and had conversations with them afterward. It does mean a lot.
Mark: A killer thing you can do, just to add-
Andrew: Hit me.
Mark: Because what you want to do is distinguish yourself. By helping the other person be more interesting, you do that. One thing you can do is if you know someone is speaking at a conference and you’d like to connect with them, you can always call their admin or their assistant and say “I’m looking forward to hearing your boss speak and this is the subject. If he can say to me a day before, or if you can relate to me a question he would like to be asked, so that the discussion goes in the right direction, I would be happy to ask that because I know questions can go to left field. If not, I’ll try to come up with something but I know sometimes when there’s a request for questions, there are certain questions that speakers really want to answer but they’re often not asked them. It would be my pleasure to do that.” That will really distinguish yourself.
Andrew: That’s a great idea. So be interested more than interesting. You don’t have to come up with the perfect line. You don’t have to come up with the perfect entry. If you ask a question that lets them be interesting then they’re going to connect with you.
Andrew: All right. Next one is to make people feel valuable. How do I do that?
Mark: When people interrupt you, or if you have an open door policy, that doesn’t mean everyone can come and go as they please, but a lot of people who interrupt, it’s because they don’t feel important. Down deep they feel in some ways that the world doesn’t treat them well. So when someone interrupts you, and let’s say you have an open door policy, you want to do that, and you’re in the middle of thinking. A lot of people will think “Well, he’s not on the phone, he’s not on his computer so he probably has nothing going on in his mind. I can go in his room and interrupt him.” A number of people think that.
By the way, I love my wife, but she thinks that. That when I’m just there, there’s nothing going on in my head. What’s going on in my head is “I hope she doesn’t interrupt my thinking.” So, when they come in, one of the things you do is you let them get the first sentence out. You may even raise your hand and say ‘I need to stop you for a second.’ Then what you say to them, because most people don’t feel important, or don’t feel valuable, you say ‘This is much too important for me to give you less than my undivided attention. And I can’t give you my undivided attention because I have to take care of a few things that I was taking care of.
So, here’s the deal: if you can tune into what it is that you wanted me to do and if it’s something that I can do and it’s really aligned with what we’re trying to get done, come back in a couple of hours and I’ll be able to give you five minutes of my undivided attention. But if you’re going to ask me to do something I can’t do or it’s unfair to anyone else in the company, I’m going to say no. But let’s talk then. It’s too important for me to cheat you out of my undivided attention.’ In that particular anecdote, the person never came back because they felt important. They were coming in because they were frustrated and suddenly you said they were important and they left the room thinking ‘My boss thinks I’m important’.
Andrew: Mark, this stuff is gold. I’m thinking of so many entrepreneurs who now work in these open space environments where other entrepreneurs have their companies on the same floor without any walls separating them, their employees, where random strangers who decided they need some office space are working. Now you’ve given people who get interrupted in those situations the perfect answer and it’s a true answer. It’s what I really feel. I can’t, when someone comes to me, give them full attention and help them out if I’m also trying to think of how to solve my problem. We’re not nearly done with the interview and I hope you’ll give me more time because I want to go through all these ideas, but this is a perfect time for me to hold up this book. This is terrific. This is really useful. “Just Listen”. By the way, Mark, is this coming in backwards on your screen? It is on mine.
Mark: No. It looks frontwards.
Andrew: It’s holding up well? All right.
Mark: It’s also an audio book. A couple weeks ago it beat Steve Jobs and Blink for about six hours.
Andrew: Audio book on Audible?
Andrew: I love Audible. All right. ‘Just Listen’ is the name of the book. All right. Next one is we want to help people to exhale emotionally and mentally. What does that mean.
Mark: Every now and then I look at the world and I say to myself, because I’m fairly [?] and intuitive, I look at people and I say “They’re all modems. Everybody in the world is a modem that’s overloaded.” When your modem is overloaded what do they tell you to do? Detach it, power it down, let the memory drain out, re-plug it and reboot. What that means is most people are overloaded with what they’ve listened to and you can give them a mental health day but if you actually listen to them so they can unload they will be grateful to you.
There’s a story there, and this is probably the most emotional one. When I was a psychiatric early in my career, I was called in to see a man with lung cancer who was just throwing any psychological-type person out of the room. The oncologists were saying “He needs to speak to someone and we don’t do that stuff.” I can remember when I went and peeked in the room, now, I’m embellishing it because it makes for a better story, this was a real guy but I could swear that smoke was coming out of his ears. I said “He’s going to rip me apart.” This was at UCLA.
I went to Westwood Stationers and I got a new name tag. Instead of saying Mark Goulston, psychiatry, it said Mark Goulston, oncology. I felt like a real man. I walked taller, Andrew, being a real doctor. I walked into his room and my name tag says Mark Goulston, M.D., oncology, and I said “I’m working with the team, I’m here to help them”. But I could swear he could smell the rat. I didn’t sound like an oncologist. In my mind’s eye, he’s sniffing.
Then he’s looking at me in the eye and that’s when I learned how to not take my eye off of people’s eyes. I can look at people eyes. I don’t know if you can do it on a screen but I’m looking at your eyes and I can hold onto your eyes but it’s not to hurt people. It’s to find out what’s really going on with them. I looked at him because I knew if I said the wrong thing he was going to throw me out. I said “How bad does it get in there?” Because he was so angry. He looked at me and he said ‘You don’t want to know.’ And I’m thinking “What do I say?”
I kept my eye on him and I said “You’re probably right. I don’t want to know. But if someone other than you doesn’t know and doesn’t know quick, you’re going to go crazy.” He looked at me and I thought “This is the moment of truth”. He looked at me and then he had a big smile and said “I’m already there. Pull up a chair”. What you take from that is he exhaled. I listened like that and he exhaled. It not only made room in his mind, it made room for our conversation.
Andrew: I see what you mean by that. I’ve seen that with entrepreneurs that puff out their chest, everything is going great, but when we talk in private, and I still haven’t been able to do this in interviews well, we talk about an insecurity or a problem they have, and they relax. They exhale. They start to let it out and it’s not as bad as it seems in their heads but it’s freeing to let it out.
Mark: It’s better to show than tell. So I’m going to do it with you and see if I can get you there.
Mark: What’s it like when you’re interviewing someone and they’re a name and they’re shooting themselves in the foot.
Andrew: They’re shooting themselves in the foot?
Mark: Yeah. Every other thing they say, you know the audience couldn’t care less. You’re trying to give them hints, you’re trying to protect them from themselves, and they’re just not getting it. There’s even a part of you that’s thinking this interview is unshowable. But this guy is a name. He’s a name. They’re going to want to hear from him. But this is not good for him. But I’ve got to show it because he’s the founder of this company and people want to hear from him but he’s ruining it. He’s off-base, he’s not giving any information that anyone can use, and what’s that like when you see that?
Andrew: You know, that is a challenge. What I end up doing is thinking ‘I need to find a way to get him to go back on track or to make statements to the audience that let’s them know what we stand for and gives them value for the hour they’ve invested in me’. Where I start to get worried is if the statements that I make that are supposed to be helpful to the audience or are supposed to send a message that says this is what we stand for, if they don’t come across well or if they’re not clear. Or if I’m trying to move him towards a topic that is useful, if I come across as bullying or I come across, no, bullying is fine, even. I don’t worry about bullying. I worry about impatient.
When someone tells this long, drawn out story I come across, I worry sometimes, as impatient instead of helpful. When I get it right, the guest will thank me after the interview is over and say ‘Thank you. I was rambling. I needed you to help me get out of it. I can see why you’re such a great interviewer.’ When I get it wrong they just want to storm off after the interview is over and they never want to talk to me again. That goes on in my head, the worry that it’s going to happen goes on in my head as I’m talking to them and trying to get them back on track.
Mark: You just smiled about four seconds ago and you did it again. Part of it is you’re exhaling because you’re reliving the performance anxiety that you feel as the interviewer. It’s up to you to bring the value out of people. Not everyone’s a good interview. You feel a responsibility to your viewers and listeners.
Mark: You’re spending their time and their money and there’s a part of you that’s up to the challenge. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t do these interviews. The reason you’re smiling is it’s as if you’re saying ‘Sometimes I pull it off better than other times. Sometimes I don’t, Sometimes, they thank me and sometimes, you know, it doesn’t go so well.’
Mark: But are you feeling understood by that?
Andrew: I am. I’m feeling that I need to express that more often and think it through more often. I think if I express if more often then I could come up with solutions for it. But if I hide from that feeling, because it is kind of painful in my head, it brings up insecurities about my place in the world. It brings up insecurities about me compared to real interviewers. The people who are on television who have all this experience and have producers with years of even more experience to help them. If I start to think about all that, I get paralyzed. So I try not to think about that for too much. The problem with not thinking about that and avoiding these thoughts is that it doesn’t give me time to come up with solutions and I’m sure I could.
Mark: Here’s a compliment and you can take it or not take it. I find you to be very earnest.
Andrew: Thank you.
Mark: But that’s in conflict with the responsibility you have to the show, the temple of the content, the relevancy of the content. I think it’s all going to meld together. I’ve watched you over the years and the earnestness is always there and I think it’s going to blend. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. I think you’re a very good interviewer and I think you’ll get even better.
Andrew: Thank you. I know that when it’s done right it can be so valuable. I’m thinking of an interview that Tony Robbins did once with Jay Abraham. Most of that interview series that he included with the personal power collection was just so-so. Him just sitting with a celebrity in the self-improvement space and we got to see what they were like interacting. There was one with Jay Abraham that was so good that it helped me think about how to sell in a new way. It made me curious how to sell.
It was so good that to this day, I see in my email, people are trading bootlegged MP3s of that interview to say this will show you how you should be selling. This will show you the sales process. I keep thinking to myself I want every interview to be that good. They all have that kind of potential. I think at this interview, how many people are going to struggle with conversations with employees, conversations selling to people who are older than them. Maybe it makes them feel secure about their place in the world. Who are going to struggle to convince a co-founder to work with them. I want this interview to be that meaty, helpful piece of 3 that will solve their problems. If it solves just one problem then I feel like I’ve done something in the world. If it solves just one problem for every listener then I feel like I’ve done something in the world.
Mark: I gave a talk last night to the Institute of Management Consultants and it was on how do you turn a conversation into getting hired. That’s how do you sell your services. One of the things I wanted to share with them, and the research for my next book, which is how to influence people and persuade people without pushing. We’re in a post-pushing, post-selling world. A lot of people don’t like to push or be pushed. What our research has shown for the next book is that people skip a step.
They go from listening, they ask questions and they tell you what you should do, but if you are asking questions from someone and you’re a consultant, you’ll notice that people are animated. As soon as you start to give them solutions, the energy in the person you’re trying to sell to changes. They go from animated when they’re talking to listening to listening to you. Even though they might say “What do you think I should do?” they check out. You can feel that and you try to pull them back. The advice from our research is after you’ve asked questions and listened to someone and they’ve said “What do you think? What do you think I should do?”
Never give them an answer. There are three things that you say instead. You say “Say more about that”. The “say more about that” is something that had a special meaning to them. So if I said to you “Say more about that interview related to Tony Robins and Jay Abraham” if I said “Say more about that”, you would get more animated. You’d give me more details. When you finish giving me the details, the second thing you say is “Really?” Interested. You’re on track. You’ll give me more details.
The third thing you say is “Andrew, what’s the most important, critical and urgent thing that people should get from that particular interview about selling?” What would happen is I would help you to get focused and you would appreciate those three questions and you would be grateful to me for helping you go deeper with what you’re passionate about and then focused. Then you’d be more engaged than if I had rushed into a solution.
Andrew: Then, I give the solution after these three questions?
Mark: What I suggest to people is my goal when I am meeting someone, is in my mind, it’s always two meetings. The first meeting is to always be of understanding and be of service but never be of solutions. Because I know if I rush with a solution, I can give them a tip like I’m giving you tips. But my goal from the first meeting with a potential client is that at the end of the meeting they want more of me and they want more of me sooner and they suggest scheduling. So, in my mind, what is it that we cover? What is it that they discover? What is it that they learn? They want more of me and want to continue the momentum and that’s my goal. Maybe we’ll have a part two of this if you’re getting something from today’s interview.
Andrew: First, buy in. Then give them the solution.
Andrew: First, get them to buy into you.
Mark: Right. And want more of you. But then, what I would say is, because the last thing you said is this. So let me repeat. What’s important, critical and urgent about what you’ve said is this .I might give them some thoughts and say “You know, I want to think about this more. I can give you some answers but I’m not giving you the best answer. And you just said something is important and critical. I want to think about that and give you the best answer I can. Well, how should we proceed with that?” If I were the other person and they thought I was very thoughtful, which I try to be, I think they’d say “Well, I want to hear the punch line. I want to hear the punch line of what you can do for me.” So then, in all likelihood, they would say “I’d like to schedule something sooner than later to find out what you think about these issues”. Then in the second meeting, review what spoke to them in the first meeting and then share some solutions and how you move forward.
Andrew: You nailed it when you said that most people don’t want solutions when they give problems. I’ll give you an example. When I tell someone my problem and I turn to them for a solution, if they give me a solution right away, I always think they don’t really get my situation. It’s different. They’re just going into their own set of solutions they give everybody. And I do this, maybe it’s because I’m a guy and I think there’s something special about me and I’m not a good listener, but I do this even with top guests who come after the interview and give me advice about some issue that I’m wrestling with. If they just launch into the solution I do check out, like you said. I do feel like they don’t fully get me.
Then I was at this party with Dane Maxwell, a past guest, and I told him about these problems that I’m having with the cheat sheets. I’m wondering should I do this with it, should I do that. Cheat sheets are where we hire writers to take these interviews and courses and make them into more accessible checklists that the audience can use to take action based on what they’ve learned in the interviews and courses. I told him the problem and he said ‘What are you trying to accomplish? What’s most important to you here with this?’ He just kept asking me these questions and then he gave me a solution. I thought “Boy, now I’m really ready to listen to him. He does fully get me. He does. He’s not just tossing out the same answer that he gives everyone else.” That has a lot of impact.
Mark: A quick study often feels like it’s not a deep study.
Andrew: You’re saying the same thing happens with Jason Calacanis. That if he can just give someone a quick answer or a quick opinion on the news, the person who’s listening feels like ‘This guy is just a talker. He hasn’t thought it through.’
Mark: It’s different if you’re talking on the news.
Mark: If it’s a short thing, a five minute segment, they want you to give some answers. But I think when you’re dealing one-on-one and you’re trying to build a trusted relationship where they’ll give you not just their time but their money, three tips that I would say is when people are listening to you or they’re having a conversation with you, you’re asking questions. The three things they want to know are do you get it? Do you get my situation? Have you read everything on the internet that you can get so that you’re prepared? So don’t ask the obvious, stupid questions. Second thing is do you get us? Do you get my culture? If we’re an engineering culture don’t talk to me like some airy, fairy design person. The third thing is do you get me? So, do you get it, the situation; do you get us, can you quack like a duck, we’re all ducks here; and do you get me. If you can do that the other person says you’ve got it.
Andrew: I see. So they’re not even ready to listen to you unless they feel like you get it, you get us, you get me. That’s what they’re saying. All right. If anyone ever comes to me asking for a solution to a problem I’m going to ask them first, when they explain it, I’m going to say “Can you say more about that?” And then I’ll say “Really?” and then I’ll say “What’s most important, critical and urgent?”
Mark: ICU. Important, critical and urgent. What’s the most important, critical and urgent. I would pause slightly between those and opposed to important, critical, urgent because it sounds like a script.
Andrew: Also, you may not want to write it down with this bad handwriting that I have. I do take notes as we do interviews and it helps me use what I’m learning in these interviews. Let’s do one more. Check your dissonance at the door. That’s the next big idea we want to teach the audience.
Mark: Dissonance is the opposite of resonance. When you resonate, it’s like tuning forks. When you click one the other one starts resonating. Dissonance is when there’s disharmony. So my definition of dissonance, when you create another person, is what they’re thinking is “I’m more worried about what you’re going to do to me than what you’re going to do for me.” In other words, what they see and hear doesn’t match what they feel. You’ve created dissonance. When we’re talking about Jason Calacanis, when he’s a quick study in the wrong situation, what people feel is that this is too quick.
This is too quick an answer. It can’t be the right answer. It’s very smart but something’s missing. One of the things you want to do, if you’re aware that you create dissonance, is to correct it. Sometimes you think you’re being shrew, the other person will think you’re being sly. Sometimes you think you’re being funny, the other person will think you’re being inappropriate. Some person in the entrepreneur space will think ‘I’m being energetic’ and other people will think they’re being bipolar and manic or ADD.
There’s a saying “You have some control over what you say but you have no control over how people hear it”. You want to correct dissonance and in the book, “Just Listen”, I was speaking to a tax attorney who was very good but he wasn’t getting clients. One of the reasons he wasn’t getting clients was because he was so civil and decent that what the client’s thinking is ‘Gee, if I hire you and I’ve really messed up, can you kill for me when you go to the IRS?’ He just seems too nice. This person said to me “I can’t change my personality. I’m not crazy that way.”
What we came up with for him, which he loved and it changed his practice, is if he’s getting that pickup, the people are hesitant and nodding from the neck up but they’re not going to hire him, because they don’t think he’s a killer, is he says “If we work together, you need to know that I am a killer, but I’m not a murderer”. People would say “What?”. “Yeah. You need to know that I’m a killer, not a murderer. What that means is there are times when I need to kill for my clients and I do that by dotting all the ‘I’s, crossing all the ‘T’s, and no one can have them. So I kill for them. But I’m not a murderer. I don’t take delight. I don’t salivate at the chance to murder people just for the delight in it. You need to know that because some people think that I can’t kill for them. If you think that about me, you’d be making a mistake.”
Andrew: You know what? I’ve got to do one more. I’ve got to do one more. How about when all seems lost, bare your neck? Do you remember the one I’m talking about or is this a tough one for us to end with?
Mark: It’s a personal thing.
Mark: No, no. I’m happy to do that.
Mark: This is especially true if you’re a parent or if you’re a child of a parent. Especially a teenager. When I was going through med school, my greatest personal accomplishment, and I’ve accomplished a lot of things, but the one thing that I’ve done that I don’t know anyone else who’s done, is I dropped out of medical school twice and finished. I don’t know anyone who has dropped out of medical school twice and finished. I didn’t do it to go see the world.
What happened is my mind stopped working. I was highlighting every book and nothing was going in. I had to tell my father that I was dropping out. My father, God rest his soul, was a difficult person. Rather critical, rather stern. When I told him I was dropping out he said
“What did you do, flunk out?’ I said ‘No, I’m still in good standing.” He said “Well, if you’re in good standing get a tutor and get this done.” It wasn’t going anywhere. No one, especially in the business my father worked in, no one had ever stood up to my father successfully because he was very stern. Even in the company he worked for, he was the one that would fire. There was a point where I realized he just wasn’t listening. He said, “So, we’re agreed you’re going to go back to medical school. You’ll get a tutor. And that’s it.” I was thinking that if I go back to medical school, I’m going to get really down. I wasn’t thinking dark, self-destructive things, but there was a chance that I could go that route.
So, I let him finish and, again, no one had ever stood up to him successfully. I looked up at him and looked into his eyes and I said, this was aggression plus principle, actually, it honesty. I looked at him and I said “You don’t seem to understand. I’m afraid.” When I said the words “I’m afraid”, I didn’t even know if I had the right to be afraid but I just started crying. It was like my eyes were bleeding. I wasn’t sobbing. I just stared at him. He looked down, he clenched his fists and said “Do what you need to do. We’ll try to help you out when we can.”
Here’s the message to kids and to parents. What parents can’t stand with their kids is when kids are being evasive. A lot of times, kids are afraid to just tell you that they’re scared so they make excuses. When they make excuses, parents get angry at them because the parents feel like ‘You’re B.S.-ing me. What else have you done?’ But if your parent has even a little love for you, then you can honestly bare your neck. What will happen is they will reach in and try to help you. My children, I don’t care what kind of trouble they get into. Just tell me what you did and we’ll do what we can to figure it out.
What was interesting in my book, “Just Listen”, and the reason I wrote about that, is someone from India was telling me he was suicidal because he came from a very proud family and thought he was going to drop out and he didn’t know what to do and that’s why I shared my story in the book. What happened is he shared his own story with his father who he didn’t think could understand him and the his father apologized, kind of, like, going back to Vince. I think it may have saved this kid’s life. I’m getting choked up. I know that’s not ready for prime time in the entrepreneur land, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Andrew: All right. I want to do a quick plug to tell the audience what they should be checking out and then I’ll ask you an important question. I’ll come back to that. The plug, guys, is if you’re Mixergy Premium members, I want to recommend two courses that we have that you should check as a follow-up to this interview. If you’re not, you can just go to mixerypremium.com and join us. I hope you do.
The first I’m suggesting is Oren Klaff. If you like psychology and understanding the way people think and pitching to the way they think and talking to the way they think, instead of just learning how to badger, badger, badger, sell, sell, sell. Watch a course that Oren Klaff does. He tells you how to understand the psychology of the people you’re raising money from and how to respond to it and how to pitch to their psychology. Once you do that, it’s going to change your way in the pitching process, whether it’s to raise money or to pitch for anything else. That’s right at the top of mixerypremium.com.
The other one is I mentioned Dane Maxwell, who is so good at one-on-one psychology. I would even say he’s better at copyrighting psychology. That’s one of the places where he learned to become better at anticipating the way people feel and to address that. He has a copyrighting course on Mixergy that will help you express yourself in a way that other people will understand in a persuasive way because it’s based on how other people think. Anyway, those two courses are on mixergypremium.com.
If you’re a premium member, you’ve got access to them all right now to those and dozens of others. If you’re not, I hope you become a member and when you do, you’ll get access to those courses and you’ll lock in the current price. As I’ve been saying, we’re planning on raising the prices. But, whatever prices you lock in right now will be yours even as other people pay more. Mixergypremium.com.
All right. Mark, here’s the thing I wanted to ask you. We talked about a lot here but there’s so much we didn’t cover in ‘Just Listen’. Part of that is the process we have here. We need to pull out some key ideas for the audience and get it all done within an hour. For anyone who wants to read the book, are there any sections that you recommend that they especially take a look at? Are there any stories, any key tactics here, that we missed that you say “Andrew should have put that in there. If you want to go even further, those are the ones you should check out?”
Mark: Well, the one we didn’t spend a lot of time with is one of the favorite chapters and that’s dealing with toxic people.
Andrew: Oh yeah.
Mark: The needy people, the whiners, the bullies, the narcissists, the psychopaths and that’s much more understanding their psychology than it is really listening. That seems to be a favorite chapter because a lot of people, spending time with those people who suck the life and energy out of you and aggravate you will not only stress you out but it will cause you to be mean to the good people. You’ll kick the dog after you’ve dealt with toxic people.
Andrew; And you know what? We do have that topic in my notes but we just didn’t get to it. That’s a great place to send people. When you get the book, “Just Listen”, and I highly recommend it check out the section on dealing with toxic people. Or steering clear of toxic people I think is what you’re going to advise people to do. There’s so many others in here that I, you know what? Here’s what I’ll say guys. What I like about this book is that Mark is a good story teller so he’s going to leave you with stories that both illustrate the big ideas and will keep them fresh in your mind.
If you think about this interview and you think about the Staples story I wonder if you remember what the big message is? I bet you do because the story that Mark told is so vivid and it’s such a good illustration of that message. He does that throughout the book. I highly recommend it. Then I say big ideas but it’s more than just big ideas. These are tactics, these are ideas that you can use right now. I think that we’ve communicated that in this interview. I’m saying it over and over because I really recommend Just Listen.
Mark, thank you for doing this interview.
Mark: Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew: All right, thank you all for watching.
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