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Why Negotiators Must Employ Curiosity with Dr. Mark Goulston, Ep #191

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Why is true curiosity so vital to a successful negotiation? How do you develop a curious and caring mind? How do you move beyond empathetic listening to helping your counterpart feel understood and valued? Dr. Mark Goulston joins me in this episode of Negotiations Ninja to share his valuable insight. This episode is jam-packed with actionable tips and strategies that you can employ today. Don’t miss it!

Dr. Goulston is a former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer. He’s also a psychiatrist with a focus on suicide prevention for 25+ years. He is the author of nine books, one of which is the #1 listening book on the planet: Just Listen. He is nothing short of a legend in his field and a viewpoint you cannot miss.


Outline of This Episode

  • [2:57] Dr. Mark Goulston’s background
  • [6:22] American’s don’t like to listen
  • [8:07] You have to learn to care
  • [11:07] How to rewire yourself to listen
  • [15:48] The magic paradox
  • [21:51] The Miracle on 34th Street Sale
  • [23:23] The HUVA Exercise
  • [27:11] How to develop a deeper sense of curiosity
  • [31:40] How to connect with Dr. Mark Goulston

What are people listening for?

Dr. Goulston teaches that if you can focus on what people are listening for—not what they’re listening to—and you get it without being told, and you deliver on it, they’ll give you everything.

He imagines that Negotiations Ninja listeners want to be more effective negotiators. They want to know if they can get tools and tactics that are immediately usable. Listeners want immediate value that can be applied to a negotiation now.

The second question that you must think about is: Why should people listen? Someone wants to know if you’re credible. Dr. Goulston has taught negotiation all over the world. But people question if they should listen to him because he’s not in the business world.

To combat this, he says, “The least earner in the room makes 5x more than I make in my best year. I’ve never sold what you sell.” This typically confuses his audience. But then he goes on to inform them that he was a suicide specialist for 25 years, and none of his patients have died by suicide. He’s helped families talk their drug-addled children back into health. He’s even talked married couples into having sex when they haven’t slept in the same rooms for five years. He ends it with, “So I know a little bit about negotiation.”

How true curiosity changes the conversation

Dr. Goulston’s book “Just Listen” is about empathic listening. It’s not just about understanding. It’s about causing someone to be felt by you. Many salespeople get to the point of empathic listening because then they’ll understand where the other person is coming from. Then you unequivocally know that if what they need and what you have don’t match, you can’t sell them.

Dr. Goulston quotes a famous Freudian term: “Where id is, let ego be,” where “id” is impulsivity and “ego” is being thoughtful. Dr. Goulston prefers to say, “Where agenda is, let curiosity be.” When you come at someone with an agenda, you’re pushing them to have to agree with you. But if you go at them with true curiosity, you’re creating a space where they can choose to agree with you.

You have to learn to care

Influence is usually employed with the intent of getting to a desired endpoint instead of just satisfying curiosity. That hampers the potential or possibility of what may come out if you’re simply curious. Dr. Goulston points out that the more aggressive you are, the more desperate and hungry you come off to wealthy people.

He loves helping younger people. He had lunch with a young man and a young woman. This young man immediately started pitching the woman and asking her questions. Dr. Goulston took him aside after their lunch and asked him if he had taken a training course. The young man said, “Yeah, why do you ask?”

Dr. Goulston’s response? “When you ask about someone’s background and where they came from, it’s generally a good idea to care about the answer.” He talks to billionaires all the time. They know when you’re trying to maneuver them. You have to care about the answer you get.

When you’re anxious and need to close, it can create anxiety, which makes you pushy. That pushiness can sometimes come off as enthusiasm. But the more you try to negotiate and sell to people who have been around the block, the pushier you come across.

True curiosity = caring about people

Dr. Goulston points out that feeling is believing. When you’ve experienced someone caring about you—and dropping their agenda—it’s transformational.

Dr. Goulston had a difficult time connecting with a busy CEO. When he finally got to see him, the CEO seemed restless and agitated. So Dr. Goulston looked at him and said, “Hey, how much time you got for me?” The CEO got really ticked and said, “Twenty minutes.”

Dr. Goulston said, “We’re into minute three and you’ve got something more important on your mind than talking to me. I’m guessing it’s more important than anything you’ll do the rest of the day. So here’s the deal: let’s stop now, but you take the remaining 17 minutes and you take care of whatever is on your mind—because you’re not here.”

The CEO looked at Dr. Goulston and his eyes teared up. He said, “You’ve known me for three minutes and I’m really private. There are people 30 yards from where we are who don’t know what we know. My wife is having a biopsy, and it doesn’t look good.” So Dr. Goulston told him to go be with his wife. Instead, the CEO centered himself said, “You’ve got my undivided attention, and you’ve got your full twenty minutes.”

Dr. Goulston is now lifelong friends with this CEO. That’s the power of letting go of your agenda and actually caring about people.

Dr. Goulston shares more actionable strategies to improve your negotiation skills in this episode, including “The HUVA Exercise,” “Magic Paradox,” and the “Miracle on 34th Street Sale.” Listen now!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Dr. Mark Goulston

Connect With Mark

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