Are you feeling too distracted to pay attention? Does listening make your brain hurt? In a world full of noise and distraction - listening is the biggest leadership hack in today’s world. In this episode we crack the code on how to deeply listen, how to listen to what is unsaid, and the tons of specific hacks and tactics you can use to take your listening to the next level with our guest Oscar Trimboli.
Oscar Trimboli is on a quest to create 100 million Deep Listeners in the world. He is an author, Host of the Apple Award winning podcast--Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. He consults for organizations including Cisco, Google, HSBC, and many others. He is the author of the best selling works Breakthroughs: How to confront assumptions and Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words.
If you can listen, you can change the world
The mission of creating 100 million listeners
If you can achieve your goal in your lifetime it’s not ambitious enough
We are struggling as individuals and the world is struggling - we are distracted, we can’t focus, we are overwhelmed
86% of people struggle with distraction today
We spent the 20th century learning how to speak, the leadership hack for the 21st century is learning how to listen
The more senior you are, the more you lead, the more time you spend listening
Less than 2% of people have been trained how to listen
How do you teach your kids how to listen? How do you teach your employees how to listen?
We listen in 2 dimensions - we listen in black and white right now - but we can listen in more colors, and we can listen more deeply.
Listen to someone on TV who you fiercely disagree with.
What’s the difference between hearing vs listening?
What assumptions and prejudices do you hold?
How do you become aware of your listening blind spots?
Spend 30 minutes listening to someone who you fiercely disagree with, and you will start to really understand your listening blind spots.
We spend a huge chunk of our lives screaming to be noticed.
Hearing = here sounds. Listening = make sense of what you hear.
The difference between hearing and listening is the action you take.
Deep listening is helping the person who is speaking make sense of what they’re saying
Focus on the speaker
Notice what they’re saying
Use nonverbal affirmatives
Three key lessons from neuroscience about listening
You speak at 125 words per minute
You can listen at 400 words per minute
You think at 900 words per minute
We can listen so much faster than we can speak, it creates a massive opportunity for us to get distracted
You must be an “empty vessel” to focus on someone else and actually listen to them
Does listening make your brain hurt?
3 Quick tips to center yourself in a conversation
(1) switch your cell phone off (or put it on airplane mode). Cell phones are the #1 barrier to listening better.
(2) Drink water during a conversation. A hydrated brain is a listening brain.
(3) The deeper you breathe, the deeper you listen. The more oxygen you can get to your brain,
Before you even think about listening to the speaker, you have to be ready to listen.
The ability to being able to listen to what’s unsaid
When somebody says something, treat silence at the end of what they say like it’s a another word.
3 Phrases to continue any conversation
Tell me more?
How long have you been thinking about this?
In our rush to fill the silence, we miss out on quite a lot.
When you use phrases like “tell me more” you give someone the opportunity to align their thoughts more clearly, think through the idea, and figure out the most important themes and ideas to shine through in the conversation.
Using silence as a weapon
How many breakthroughs are you missing in your organization just because you’re not listening?
5 Levels of Listening
(1) Listening to yourself and not paying attention to the speaker
(2) Listening to the content
Tip: Listen for energy, listen to where in their body they are speaking from. Listen to their body language.
Tip: Listening to state change. Then ask “what happened for you then?"
(3) Listening for the context
Understand what patterns they talk about. Past or future? Problems vs solutions? Individuals vs collective?
Ask: “I’m curious if you’ve noticed any patterns in what you’ve said so far?"
(4) Listening for what’s unsaid
Tip: Discover the other 800 word’s stuck in their head.
(5) Listening for the meaning
Trust your gut feel just a little bit more.
Ask: What movie is happening right now in this organization? What show are we in right now? What TV character are we? What book are we in?
“You’ve heard something in 25 minutes that we couldn’t hear in 3 months"
A powerful question that can solve insurmountable business problems: Who are you not listening to right now?
In business, it’s oftentimes the people closest to the customer who aren't being listened to.
Sometimes the people you really need to listen to aren’t in the room.
The only way to get someone to see the gap between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow is by ASKING THEM A QUESTION, not by telling them.
The magic happens when you put your attention on other people instead of just putting it on yourself.
If the question if about YOU and YOUR understanding, it’s not as powerful as a question helping THEM improve THEIR understanding.
Homework: Listen to something you deeply disagree with for 30 minutes.
Thank you so much for listening!
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This week's episode of The Science of Success is presented by Dr. Aziz Gazipura's Confidence University!
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Want To Dig In More?! - Here’s The Show Notes, Links, & Research
Business Insider - “5 reasons people don’t listen to you, according to neuroscience” by Corrinne Armour
Medium - “Unlock your listening blind spots with this puzzle” by Oscar Trimboli
Oscar’s Author directory on CRN
[Podcast] Manage 2 Win - #31 - DEEP LISTENING WITH OSCAR TRIMBOLI
[Podcast] The Cleverness w/ Dr. Jason Fox: How to facilitate ‘depth’—a conversation with Oscar Trimboli
[Podcast] Play Your Position: Oscar Trimboli on the Numerous Rewards of Deep Listening
[Podcast] Consulting Success: The Secret Power Of Listening with Oscar Trimboli: Podcast #89
[Podcast] Salesforce -Quotable: Episode #143: Listen to What Customers Aren’t Saying, with Oscar Trimboli
[Podcast] Leadership Happy Hour: 121 - Deep Listening With Oscar Trimboli
[Podcast] Art of Charm: 5 Hacks to Improve Your Listening | Q&A w/ Oscar Trimboli (Episode 726)
Oscar’s YouTube Channel
The Art of Charm (show excerpt)- 3 Easy Tips on Listening Better
JBarrows Sales Training - Listening Skills - Oscar Trimboli - Make It Happen Mondays
Leaders of Transformation Podcast - LOT Podcast 225: Oscar Trimboli: Deep Listening - Impact Beyond Words
Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words by Oscar Trimboli
Breakthroughs: How to confront assumptions by Oscar Trimboli
[Download] Oscar’s Five Myths of Listening
[00:00:04.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:11.8] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success; the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than four million downloads and listeners in over a hundred countries.
Are you feeling distracted to pay attention? Does listening make your brain hurt? In a world full of noise and distraction, listening is the biggest leadership hack in today’s world. In this episode, we crack the code on how to deeply listen, how to listen for what is unsaid and tons of specific hacks and tactics you can use to take your listening to the next level with our guest, Oscar Trimboli.
Are you a fan of the show and have you been enjoying the content that we put together for you? If you have, I would love it if you signed up for our e-mail list. We have some amazing content on there, along with a really great free course that we put a ton of time into called How To Create Time for What Matters Most In Your Life. If that sounds exciting and interesting and you want a bunch of other free goodies and giveaways along with that, just go to successpodcast.com. You can sign up right on the homepage. That’s successpodcast.com. Or if you’re on your phone right now, all you have to do is text the word “smarter”, that’s S-M-A-R-T-E-R to the number 44-222.
When you listen to our previous interview, you can uncover the neuroscience of how your brain get stuck and finally start using the strategies that really work to create more breakthroughs and results in your life with our previous guest, Dr. David Rock. If you’re feeling stuck and want to get a major breakthrough, listen to our previous episode.
Now, for our interview with Oscar.
[0:01:50.5] MB: Today, we have another great guest on the show, Oscar Trimboli. Oscar is on a quest to create a 100 million deep listeners in the world. He’s an author, host of the Apple award-winning podcast Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. He consults for organizations, including Cisco, Google, HSBC and many more. He's the author of the best-selling works Breakthroughs: How to Confront Assumptions and Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words. Oscar, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:02:21.5] OT: Thanks, Matt. I'm really looking forward to listening to your questions and curious about what I can learn from one of the creative capitals of the world in Nashville.
[0:02:30.3] MB: That's awesome. Well Oscar, it's so good to have you on the show. I'm a big fan of your work and really the message that you share. To begin the conversation, I'd like to start with a simple question, which is just how did you come to listening? Why listening? What made you want to write about that and start talking to people about the importance of it?
[0:02:51.6] OT: I think, listening found me rather than me finding listening, whether it was growing up in a school with 23 nationalities, people from post-war Europe, or people from post-war Asia or South America all learning English as their second language, whether it was rebuilding a graduate program at Microsoft that eventually got taken to 26 countries around the world and listening to the graduates who'd stayed with Microsoft, as well as the graduates who left.
Ultimately, when a vice president said to me – Tracy said, “Oscar, if you could code the way you listen, you could change the world.” Ignored that for about two years. Then somebody else said something really similar. They said to me, “If you could train 10 million listeners in the world, you could make a huge difference.”
I came back a month later and said, “Yeah, I could do that, Matt.” They said, “Great. Well, if you could do 10 million, why don't you do a 100 million?” I went, “Huh?! I just said 10 million. That's a huge number.” They said, “If you can achieve your goal in your lifetime, it's not ambitious enough. Add a zero. Go for a 100 million and see what's possible.” I was chatting to Kevin in Atlanta recently and he threw out a challenge to me to make it a billion. He said, “Come on. McDonald's has sold more burgers than you’re trying to get to listeners. Be a little bit more ambitious.”
[0:04:13.0] MB: I love that. What a great piece of wisdom. It has nothing to do with listening, but it's so insightful. If you can achieve your goal in your lifetime, it's not ambitious enough.
[0:04:21.7] OT: Yeah. Matt, who was the person who told me that, really challenged me to stop thinking about listening only as something that – was something that I could teach face-to-face. He forced me to get it into books and said build podcasts and their assessment tools and so many other ways you could get this out to the world.
Because right now, that world’s struggling. We're struggling individually with distraction, we're struggling with our cellphones, we're struggling to stay in the moment. In fact, it's happening for you right now while you're listening to this podcast. You may be commuting and distracted, or you may be exercising and distracted. Distraction for the people in our research database, 1,410 people, 86% of people are struggling with distraction, either externally, like a device, a phone, a laptop, an iPad, or internally with some of the own noise going on in your head. Your radio station may be playing at a completely different frequency to what the conversation is that's going on right now.
We've spent the 20th century, Matt, learning how to speak. I think the leadership hack for the 21st century is learning how to listen. The stats are really simple. You spend 55% of your day listening on average. The more senior you are, or the larger the organization you lead, the more of your day is spent listening. Senior execs are spending up to 83% percent of their day listening, yet only 2% of us have ever been trained on how to listen. I'm sure, Matt, you had a very much more sophisticated education than me. You probably had a listening teacher growing up, right?
[0:06:08.3] MB: I definitely did not have a listening teacher.
[0:06:10.7] OT: Most of us don't. Our biggest and most influential listening teacher are our parents. The closest they get to it is, “Matt, I wish you'd really listen to me right now. Why aren't you paying attention?” When I get asked offstage after I speak on the topic, the number one and two questions I get asked and they're pretty interchangeable, can you help me teach my manager how to listen? Or how do I teach my kids how to listen? At the end of the day, everything you do is role-modeling listening.
The reality is without a listening teacher, although we can see in color, we listen in black and white, we listen in two dimensions, we listen to what they say and we try and make sense of the sentences and the paragraphs and the stories. The reality is there's so much more to listening, if we could listen in five different colors. Not mountainous technical, but just move from listening in black and white to five colors, it would make a huge difference in the world.
I'll flip it the other way though, Matt. If you think about the teacher who made the biggest difference for you at school, generally people say it's the teacher that listen to them. Is that true for you?
[0:07:22.4] MB: That's a good question. I don't know if it's true for me or not. The thing that taught me how to listen is that I was a debater in high school and you have to be able to listen really intently to understand what the other side is saying and doing.
[0:07:36.4] OT: How did that make you a better debater by doing that?
[0:07:39.7] MB: We're flipping the script already. I like it. It made me a better debater, because – and this is something that as you're well aware and you’re evangelizing this idea around the world to be successful at anything. I apply this in business and life, across the board. You have to understand what someone else is doing, what they're saying, what they're feeling, what they're going through, to be able to respond, to be able to provide a solution.
That was true, whether it's a response in a debate, all the way up to whether you're dealing with a management crisis at a company. It's the same fundamental thing. You have to be able to understand what's really going on and what's really happening and confront reality as best as you can discern it. To be able to do that, you really have to listen very deeply.
[0:08:25.5] OT: The latest I work with Matt and you highlight this from the debate. One of the exercises I set them is for today, the next day and the next week, listen to somebody in the media you fiercely disagree with. In doing, so not a person who's right in front of you, like it was with your debate, but if you can tune your frequency to make sure that you listen to somebody in the media, whether that's on TV, or radio, or a podcast, whatever they have as an opinion, make sure it's the opposite to you.
Then you can start to understand the difference between hearing and listening, because if you listen to someone you fiercely disagree with, suddenly you'll become conscious not only of their assumptions, their judgments, their prejudice, anything you find that's different in your historical experience to them. You’ll also start to notice that as a mirror back to yourself and you wonder, “What prejudice am I holding? What assumptions am I holding?”
A really simple tip for everybody, if you want to become aware of your listening blind spots, those things you're not even conscious are true for you. Spend one day out of t6he next seven and spend 30 minutes listening to someone you fiercely disagree with through the media. 30 minutes is important, because for five minutes you can hold it, maybe even for 15 minutes you can hold it. Once you go past the 18-minute mark, you start to get frustrated and you start to get angry and you start to wanted to bake that person there. A really simple, practical tip for everybody; if you want to become conscious of your listening blind spots, listen to somebody you fiercely disagree with.
[0:10:08.5] MB: Yeah, that's a great tip and a great strategy. I want to come back to something you said a second ago that I think bears digging into more, which is this notion of the difference between hearing and listening. Tell me more about that.
[0:10:21.1] OT: We all hear, in fact the very first skill we learn inside our mother's womb at 20 weeks is to distinguish our mother's sound from any other sound, Matt. At 32, weeks you can distinguish Beethoven from Bon Jovi from Bieber. The minute we come into the world, we come into the world on very active birth. The moment you scream is when the clock starts. That's when on your birth certificate, the time of your birth is defined by the time you scream. We spend the rest of our life screaming to be noticed.
Yet, the very last thing that leaves us as skill when we pass away, when I interviewed a couple of palliative care nurses and doctors is hearing. Hearing is listening to sounds. In fact, while you sleep, you can hear. It's really important that you hear while you sleep. It's part of our survival instincts. Listening is the ability to make sense of what you hear. The difference between hearing and listening I always say is the action you take. Nothing is more frustrating when you have a conversation with somebody. You nod and you commit to do something and you don't do it. The next time they come back they go, “How did you go with that?” You’re, “Oh, I forgot.” They interpret that as, “Well, you heard what I said, but you really didn't listen.”
For most of us, listening is about making sense of what we hear. Deep listening on the other hand, is helping the person who's speaking to make sense of what they're saying, because too much of listening is fixated on ourselves and understanding what we need to do to make meaning of what they're saying. That's handy, but a really powerful listener helps the person speaking make sense of what they're saying, not just you make sense of what they're saying as well.
Most of us in the 80s and the 90s, they had this amazing movement called the Active Listening Movement, which is focus on the speaker, notice what they're saying, nod, use non-verbal affirmatives like, “Mm-hmm. Mm, or tell me more,” as an example. The reality is all that's helping you to do is helping you to listen is interesting. Helping them to listen to themselves is even more important.
Matt, there's three parts in neuroscience I'd love everybody to understand before they leave the podcast today. If you are only taking one note, this is the note I'd be taking; if I got run over by a truck and I hope that one thing I pass on to the world is these three numbers. I speak at a 125 words a minute. You listen at 400 words a minute and I think at 900 words a minute. We're going to deconstruct each of those numbers.
This is the maths and science of listening. It's the neuroscience of listening. If I speak at 125 words a minute and you can listen at 400, Matt, you're going to be distracted. You're going to fill in the gap. I'm going to sound boring and there's 300 words you're going to fill in your head, because you can. If you want to try this out, just turn the podcast up to 2 times speed and you'll still be able to make sense of what we say. Blind people can listen at up to 300 words a minute, because they've trained their mind to do that. For blind people, the speed at which they can listen increases their ability to literally see their environment around them.
If I can speak at only a 125 words a minute, a horserace caller, or an auctioneer can speak it up to 200 words a minute, you can still make sense of that, but we're all programmed to be distracted. Again, it's happening for you right now. I'm not speaking fast enough and you're filling in the gaps for those 300 words that I'm not speaking fast enough for you. It gets worse. If you're on your cellphone and you're sending a text message, or a WhatsApp message, or anything else on that phone, it's impossible for you to notice what I'm not saying. It's impossible for you to notice my body language.
Here's the frustrating thing for me as the speaker, I've got 900 words stuck in my head and I can only get a 125 words out at any one time then. The maths is really simple. The likelihood, that first thing out of my mouth is what I'm thinking, there's a 1 in 9 chance, or 11% that what I say is what I'm thinking. I'm at the stage in my life that I'm spending more time with a doctor than I'd like. If they said to me I've got an 11% chance of surviving surgery, I'd be asking for a second opinion. The reality is in a conversation, we should be asking for a second opinion as well, Matt.
[0:15:01.5] MB: I want to explore a couple of the things you said. Those are some really interesting stats. Coming back to something you talked about a second ago, tell me about this idea of how do we help somebody listen to themselves? I might be phrasing that incorrectly, but how do we focus on the other person and the idea of deep listening, how do we help them make sense of what they're saying, as opposed to just actively listening to them?
[0:15:25.5] OT: Yeah. The very first place to start is to remember if there are five levels of listening, level one is not paying attention to the speaker. Level one is listening to yourself. You can't be conscious enough to focus on them.
They're listening if you've got the last conversation that you just had in your head, or the next conversation, or the fact you've got to go to the gym later on this evening, or the fact you've got to sort out something on the weekend, or you've got a dinner party, or you've got a birthday party and you've got all this noise going on in your head before you even get to the conversation. It's impossible for you to help them listen, until you listen to yourself. You need to be an empty vessel in the conversation, so you can focus on them.
A lot of us come into the conversation as if we jump into the passenger seat of a car and forget to put our own seat belts on. We're driving away in the conversation and all of a sudden, if they slam the brakes on, you're going to go through the front window, because you're not in the same swim lane as they are. You're not in the same conversation. Three really quick tips, Matt, to get you centered, ready for that conversation to help them listen to themselves.
Tip number one, switch your cellphone off. Oh, wow. That's crazy talk. I know. If you're addicted to your phone, which about 86% of us are, just switch it to flight mode then. In flight mode, you can take some notes, but you're not getting notifications coming in. In the data that we've done, 1,410 people, the biggest struggle people have with listening is the distraction of the cellphone. That by far makes up the biggest distraction.
If you want to improve how you've listened and you've got the cellphone switch to flight mode or off, here's two other tips; tip number two, drink water during the conversation. Just a glass of water for every 30 minutes in a dialogue. A hydrated brain is a listening brain. The brain represents 6% of the body mass, but it consumes up to 25% percent of the blood sugars of the body. It's a really hungry part of the brain.
The reality is a hydrated brain can get more blood sugars there faster. Brain that isn't taught how to listen struggles with how to listen. We do a lot of work in the prefrontal cortex when it comes to listening. This is the most modern part of the brain. When it's untrained, it feels hard. A lot of people say to me, listening makes my brain hurt. I always say you're doing it wrong. If that's how you're doing it and we'll explain what that means shortly.
Tip number three is simply this; the deeper you breathe, the deeper you listen. If you can notice your breathing and deepen your breathing, the more oxygen you can get to the brain, the more likely it is that your brain will perform well on the task of listening. Three things before we even start fixating on the speaker is to get ourselves into a state that we're available to hear what they're saying and more importantly, to hear what they're not saying. That's where we're going to go to next. I'm sure that's prompted a few questions for you, Matt.
[0:18:37.8] MB: Many different things that I want to explore, and so many important themes and ideas. I think the place I want to come back to, those are great tips – I really love. I want to reiterate, or emphasize the point you made about putting your cellphone in airplane mode and even the idea of actually telling somebody in a conversation, “Hey, I'm going to put my phone in airplane mode, so I can really focus on you and this conversation,” is a really powerful gesture.
[0:19:03.5] OT: It reminds me of a have a great story I have to share with you. About 11 years ago, Peter was flying from Seattle Microsoft head office. He ran about a 100 million dollar business for Microsoft. It was not insignificant. You figured this guy's pretty busy. I was hosting 20 CEOs in Australia in a roundtable, where he would be at the head of the table. We were in a fancy-pants hotel that had this big boardroom table and he literally just flown in from Seattle that morning. He's straight into the meeting. It was 9:00 a.m. and he was at the head of the table.
What Peter did next really changed the way I thought about listening. He sat down. I introduced him. Then Peter said, “I'm really sorry. Please forgive me. The most important thing I can give you right now is my attention.” With that, he stood up. He took his cellphone out of his jacket pocket, switched it off and put it in his bag. Now what was interesting was what happened next with the other 20 CEOs sitting around the table. What do you think happened then, Matt?
[0:20:12.2] MB: I don't know. They all put their phones away?
[0:20:13.9] OT: Yeah. 14 of them put their cellphones into their bags. Now what that did for the other six was interesting. I don't know if it shamed them into doing something, but I'm guessing the rest switched them into flight mode.
For a lot of us, we can bring about change just by role-modeling that change. In most meetings, when I do that, the person I'm working with will reciprocate. If we want to bring about change, it's not about asking everybody else to make that change. If you can simply role-model, make an example that you're going to switch your phone into airplane mode, you'll be surprised what happens to the other person, but more important what happens next on the quality of the conversation.
[0:20:58.4] MB: I love that point too about saying the most important thing I can give you is my attention. I might be paraphrasing a little bit, but that was such a powerful example, such a great gesture. It's something that's so simple to do and yet, it's hard and it's not necessarily easy.
[0:21:17.8] OT: What happened at the end of the meeting was fascinating. These execs, they got these amazingly tight schedules. They're in the country for two to three days and they have all these very highly leveraged meetings where he was just going to other locations to do very similar kinds of meetings. I do briefed the group for the next half an hour.
What was fascinating was they said they were expecting the group to talk about the future of technology, or something else to do with technology, or technically orientated conversations. That's what they were expecting from Peter in that dialogue. What they said was – Peter was just asking each of them what they were struggling with personally. He created a pretty safe environment. That group, I know stayed connected well after this event with some of the challenges they were talking about themselves personally. The value that Peter created wasn't just the value around what he talked about technically for a very brief period of time, but he helped everyone listen to each other. That again is a really powerful thing we can do.
A lot of the times if there's three, four, five, six people in the room, we generally hear from the loudest. We don't take the time to make sure that everybody is being heard. That's really critical. Again, the difference between a recreational listener and a deep listener, a powerful listener and impactful listener is their ability to listen to what's unsaid bad.
Back to the point about helping somebody make sense of what they're saying themselves, the most potent thing we can do as a listener is to help them make sense of those 800 words stuck in their head. Back to the maths again, I speak at a 125 words a minute. I can think at 900. That's an average. Some people can think at 600 words a minute. Some people can speak way up, I think way up to 1,600 words a minute.
On average, we speak at about – I think at about 900 words a minute. If I say the first thing that comes out of my mouth, unless I'm a great actor who's rehearsed my lines well, the likelihood what I say is what I mean, is 11%. You get probably better odds going to Las Vegas and playing the slot machines, or going on the roulette wheel. The odds are going to be much better for you there.
Here's a couple of simple, practical tips; when somebody says something, treat silence at the end of what they say like it's a word. Listen to the beginning of the word, the middle of the word and the end of the word. Treat silence like it's another word. In doing so, what you'll notice is they'll either unpack another 125 words in their head. Well, they’ll pause. Might bow their head down a little bit. If you can remember these simple phrases, what else? Tell me more. How long have you been thinking about this? What else? Tell me more. What else have you been thinking about this?
All of a sudden, just magic happens. You'll be nodding as I say this. What they’ll do is they'll draw their breath and they'll use phrases like this, “Hmm. Well, actually. What's really important on this topic is.” Or they'll say, “Hmm. Now that I think about it, what I haven't told you is.” Or they’ll say, “Hmm. What I've said is interesting, but let's focus on this.” It doesn't matter how it comes out, Matt. What they're doing is exploring what stuck in their brain.
You see, our mind is like a washing machine. While we're on wash cycle, it's sudsy, it's dirty, it's moving around and it's not making much progress. When we speak, it's like the rinse cycle of a washing machine. It's clean water it's coming into our brain. As we speak and express this idea, what's happening to the neural pathways and the synaptic connections is that creating an electronic circuit for the idea to be expressed.
Then the idea takes a concrete form, where we can look at it together, we can analyze it together and more importantly, the speaker can see it and notice it. For most of us, if we just practice saying, “Tell me more,” you'll be shocked what you hear. More importantly, they'll start to understand what they mean, not just what they said the first time. Have you ever been in a situation like that, Matt?
[0:26:04.4] MB: Yeah, absolutely. Those are great strategies. I love all three of those techniques, or phrases that you can use to really dig in and explore any conversation. Even the fourth thing, which is the silence, silence is such a powerful strategy, such a powerful tool. In some cases, can even be a weapon in some conversations.
[0:26:25.0] OT: In the West, we have a poor relationship with silence. We call it the pregnant pause. We call it the awkward silence. Yet in China, Korea, Japan, many of the ancient traditions like the Inuit of North America, the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori and the Polynesian cultures, a lot of the ancient jungle cultures of Africa and South America, silence is a sign of wisdom. It's a sign of seniority. It's something they're extraordinarily comfortable with. Then in our rush in the West to fill silence, we actually miss out on quite a lot.
[0:27:04.9] MB: Tell me more.
[0:27:06.3] OT: I like how you’re role modeling that, Matt. It shows you're listening. What that made me feel when you say tell me more is like, “Wow, Matt's taking the time not only to hear what I said, but to listen to it and use the phrase.” In a lot of Aboriginal cultures for example, and the great storytelling cultures of the planet, silence makes it an important part of the story to allow the person who's listening to the story to catch up in their mind, the gap between their imagination and what the speakers are actually saying.
It also helps them to overlay their own experience and meaning behind it. For most of us, if we've heard powerful public speakers, what we may have noticed in stage shows, or musicals, great oration, you can think about Martin Luther's speech I have a dream. There are many pauses that he use in that speech to allow the 200,000 people at the Washington Monument to catch up with what he was saying that was really important.
In using that simple phrase, ‘tell me more’, we create much more nuance in the dialogue. We create much more awareness in the dialogue, not just for me as a speaker, but also for you, Matt, in asking that question tell me more, now you've understood a bit more about the storytelling cultures. For those in the audience listening, I have a different perspective.
[0:28:42.7] MB: Hey, I'm here real quick with confidence expert, Dr. Aziz Gazipura to share a lightning round insight with you. Dr. Aziz, how can people say no more often and stop people-pleasing?
[0:28:56.2] AG: This is not only important to figure out how to do, but to start practicing immediately. Because most people don't realize, their anxiety, their stress, their overwhelm is often a result of not saying no. Here are some quick tips on how to start doing that; first of all, imagine right now in your life where would you benefit from saying no, where do you feel overloaded, pressured, overwhelmed, even if intellectually you're telling yourself you should, tune into your heart, tune into your body, where do you feel, “I don't want to.” Start paying attention to that. Start honoring that.
The next tip is to imagine saying no and then notice how you feel, because you're probably going to feel all kinds of good stuff, right? Guilt, fear, what are they going to think? I don't want to let this person down. What you want to do is before you go say no to them, you want to work through that. You want to address that. You want to get out on paper, “Can I say this? Why can't I say this? What's stopping me from doing this?” Do a little prep work so you can really just practice it.
Then the third and most important step, of course it's going to be to go say no. start saying no liberally. Start saying no regularly. In fact, after listening to this, find an opportunity today to say no, because the more you do it like anything else, like any sub-skill of confidence, the more you do it, the easier it will become and the freer you'll become in your life.
[0:30:12.6] MB: Do you want the confidence to say no and boldly ask for what you deserve? Sign up for Dr. Aziz's confidence university by visiting successpodcast.com/confidence. That's successpodcast.com/confidence and start saying no today.
[0:30:31.4] MB: I think it's fascinating that tell me more, what else, etc., these phrases create the opportunity to simultaneously bridge that gap, the numbers gap to be a deeper listener and to get a more rich nuanced and detailed understanding of whatever you happen to be discussing.
[0:30:51.5] OT: A lot of what we've discussed so far, we think about in one-on-one settings. I want to take you to a room in a workshop that I was doing in 2015. It was March. It was one of those narrow, dusty boardrooms with poor light. We'd been working since 8:30 in the morning in a workshop with a group of leaders in an organization that had been growing at about 30% since they started five years earlier.
In that room and was 11 people and we were just before the lunch break. It was about quarter to 12. Everyone was hungry. The CEO was giving me the eyes to say, “Hurry up. Let's get to lunch.” We just had one simple exercise. The exercise was this; if you were to describe our organization as an animal, what animal would you describe it as? As we went around the room, the loudest spoke first. They anchored the conversation. People tend to follow what the first off people would say.
Some people said an eagle. Some people said an osprey. Some people said, think of any bird, or prey that moves really fast, flies and adapts to its conditions and kills things. That's what everybody was saying. Yet, Elaine who was the last person in the room, the card-carrying member of the introvert community, she hadn't finished. The CEO was looking at me as if like, “Can we just get to lunch? We don't have to wait for her.” I turned to her. I didn't say anything. I just turned my body to face her. I reached out my hand as if to make an invitation and she looked at me and said, “I thought we were a snake.” The tension in the room rose dramatically. When you think of a snake, Matt, what goes through your head if you were to describe the characteristics of a snake?
[0:32:48.1] MB: Quiet. Slithering is what comes to mind.
[0:32:52.9] OT: Anything else?
[0:32:53.6] MB: Sneaky.
[0:32:55.2] OT: If you were to generically say snake is good or bad, it's probably not good.
[0:33:00.3] MB: Yeah, negative.
[0:33:02.9] OT: Yeah. Again, I'm looking around the room to seeing the reaction of everybody and the CEO by now is giving me these laser-like, comic-strip laser eyes straight into mine, as if to burn my skull like, “Can we get to lunch? We don't need to listen about a snake.” I extended my arm in invitation just a little bit further. I've done all of this without saying a single word to Elaine. She said, “I thought it was obvious that we've forgotten to shed our skin for our clients. We haven't adapted to the seasons.”
The backstory is the business was growing at 30% per annum, but it had now plateaued. Competitors were doing a much better job of them. She said, “Every season, we would adapt like a snake would and shed its skin. As the seasons change, we would change too. We've forgotten how to change.” The room completely moved to a different space. Rather than going to launch, the CEO asked more question. He skillfully didn't fight and judge the idea.
What happened as a result then, the organization started making product names based on snakes. They started thinking about that shedding skin moment. Are we getting close enough to our clients, which was another thing Elaine said; a snake can get up so close to you, you can't even notice, but we've forgotten how to do that. Whereas a bird has to swoop in and sweep out and can be quite quick and move out very quickly as well.
The point is really simple, how many Elaine's are you not listening to in meetings that can completely change the trajectory of the thinking of the organization? You see, introverts think deeper and longer. It doesn't make their opinion any less valid, but because we don't take the time to listen at level four, which is listening for the unsaid, we'll miss those opinions consistently.
When you're in group meetings, if you're leading the meeting and even if you're not, draw out the opinions of those who haven't been heard and it will completely transform not only the direction of the meeting, but also the impact of the meeting too.
[0:35:20.3] MB: Incredible story and so interesting. I love how you even teed it up and said, “What do you think about snakes?” Then you come to this realization of the powerful implications of that. Really, really interesting. You touched a second ago on level four of listening and earlier, we started sharing the five levels. I'd love to come back and really share all five of those and unpack them a little bit.
[0:35:44.8] OT: Yeah, let's do the quick movie trailer for the five levels of listening. Level one, listening to yourself; level two, listening to the content; level three, listening for the context; level four, listening for what's unsaid and then level five, listening for the meaning. For each of those levels, I'll just provide one quick explanation and a tip, Matt, if that makes sense.
At level two, listening for the content, this is where most of us if we've had any training in how to listen, or our focus on how to listen means we listen for the content of the speaker, we listen for their words, we may listen for their body language. The ninja tip at listening for content is listen for energy. Notice how far back their shoulders are. If you can listen to where they're speaking from, that's even more powerful. See if you can notice the change in my voice as I have moved down further into my throat. I'm a little bit more constricted down here and that probably tells you I'm not comfortable articulating the idea, as opposed to doing it from here, which is down in my deep diaphragm and I'm feeling very comfortable with it.
If your head is in your cellphone and you're not paying attention, you're not going to notice that vocal fry. That happens occasionally, because sometimes it only happens in a microsecond. For some people, the simple act of taking their shoulders back a little bit further and filling their lungs with air, gives you a great signal to say something's changed for them.
Listening to what they say, even watching body language as an example, are their arms crossed, or are they squinting when they talk? All these non-verbal signals are taught to us in body language. Ultimately, the third thing you want to notice it's listening for state change. In doing that, you can simply ask them what happened for you then? They'll go, wow, they noticed that I brought my shoulders back or leaned in.
All of a sudden, that's the same code word to help them explain and get connected, not just to what they're thinking, Matt, but also to what they're feeling. Your gut has more nerve endings than the brain. If we can help people get more connected with the gut feel, that's an awesome way to listen.
Level three, listening for the context, we want to understand what patterns they talk about. Do they talk always about the past or the future? Do they talk about problems or solutions? Do they talk about themselves as individuals, or do they talk about collectives, teams for example, organizations, or families? Or do they talk about very internal things, either internal to them, or internal to the organization, or are they externally orientated?
If you can notice patterns in the way people dialogue, you can simply say to them, “I'm curious if you've noticed any patterns in what you've said so far.” Again, that's another way for them to start to think about what they haven't said. In most cases, whatever pattern you're thinking about, they won't notice. If you say to them, “I’m curious if you've noticed any patterns in what you've said so far,” whatever pattern they come up with is probably not the pattern you're thinking about.
Level four we've spent a bit of time here, but this is the ninja move of listening; listening for what’s unsaid. It sounds completely counterintuitive, but we want to unpick the other 800 words that are stuck inside people's head. Listening to the unsaid expands the conversation, helps them make sense of what they mean, but this is where you can have an impact beyond words and you can amplify the impact, not just of you in that conversation, them in that conversation, but you can have probably multi-generational impacts on some of the conversations you have, because you're expanding the thinking.
Level five is listening for meaning. Listening and meaning can be something as simple as this; I was doing a workshop with a sterile manufacturing company a couple of years ago. 86 people managers in a room, Matt, and you could cut the tension with a knife in there. I was there to talk about listening, but I could sense by about the 20-minute mark, the room wasn't there to listen about listening. They had many other things on their mind. For a lot of us, we just need to trust our gut feel a little bit more.
I turned to my host who was the CEO and said to him, “If it's okay with you, you I'm just going to change what I'm going to do for the next five minutes. Are you okay with that?” He looked at me, again as if to say, “Are you crazy, man?” I said, “Well, do you trust me?” He goes, “Do I have a choice?” I said, “Yeah, you do. You're my host. I'm in your hands. It's your audience.” He says, “I trust you. Go for it.” I turn to the room and I said, “Look, just for the next 2 minutes, can you just turn to the person next to you. Tell me what movie is happening right now in this organization, on this site with 500 other employees working out there.” The room instantly changed energy, Matt.
It was this buzz in the room. There was lots of laughter and everybody was having a joke. It was really hard to pull the group back, to be honest. I probably lost complete control of the room at that point in time. Then and I thought it was 2 minutes, but it was probably closer to 7. We wound the group back and said, “Hey, we'd love to know some of the movies.” As the hands went up, the movie was Die Hard with a vengeance, the movie Titanic, the movie was Tara Inferno.
You named a disaster movie and they were sighing at that. Now the funny thing is none of them would ever have turned to the CEO in the room and said, “Coming to work every day feels like I'm working in a disaster movie.” That simple question what movie are we in, or what book are we in, or what stage show are we in, what TV character might we be? These simple ways to detach yourself from the content, all of a sudden changed the mood of the meeting. It changed the mood of my host.
He stood up on stage. He took the microphone off me and gestured for me to sit in his seat in the front row. At that point I just went, “Oh, well. I guess I'm not getting paid for this gig.” What he did next was amazing. He turned to the room. He apologized. He said, “I'm really sorry. I don't expect anybody to come to work in a disaster. I've tried to solve this problem with you for three months and I can't fix it. Can you help me?” In that moment, he gave me the mic back and said, “Oscar, you've heard something in 25 minutes that we haven't heard in three months. Can you use the remaining time to help us move forward?” All I did next, Matt, was say, “Who aren't we listening to to solve this problem?” They all agreed they hadn't talked to the frontline production workers.
Now the backstory, for three months they've been struggling with an impurity in this very sterile manufacturing process. Every time they thought they'd solved it, the impurity came back. Now the implication of that is up to 10 million dollars’ worth of stock is stuck in quality assurance, because they won't let that go out to patients. In three days, talking to frontline production workers, they solved that problem. More importantly, they solved it permanently.
Sometimes the most important people to listen to aren’t even in the room. Yet for all their sophisticated six sigma and five-wise methodologies and powerful masters and PhDs and chemical engineering, it was the frontline workers, the people who packed boxes on the assembly line, who pointed out what was wrong in the piping in the system that helped everybody listen. If we didn't listen for the disaster movie, we wouldn't have had the permission to go there. That's where you can have an impact beyond words if you really listen deeply.
[0:43:50.6] MB: Another incredible story. Two of the questions that you brought to that are so fascinating. One, I love the question about what movie, or what book, or what TV show is happening right now in this organization. Such a great question. The other one, which you just touched on a second ago is this question of who are we not listening to right now? Both of those are tremendously powerful.
[0:44:13.5] OT: Unfortunately for a lot of organizations, the answer is the people closest to the customer. The people closest, if you're in a non-for-profit, those that we serve. If you don't listen to those frontline workers, you will be hearing from your regulators. You will be hearing from the media, because you missed the point of why the organization, or leaders exist. Because whether it's the global financial crisis, or the deep water horizons, BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, in all cases, the frontline workers weren’t being listened to, “They were telling us it's a problem. They were saying there were issues, there were complaints coming into the system, but people were choosing not to listen.”
For all of us in that moment, if we come back to this week for 30 minutes, just listen to someone you violently disagree with to help you tune your listening muscles in, to remove judgment and bias from the way you approach your listening. You'll make some huge steps to becoming a deep, powerful listener. Most practically, Matt, please switch that phone into flight mode for every conversation that matters and people say to me, “Yes, Oscar. What are the conversations that don't matter?” I always say, if you're having a conversation with a human, they all matter. You'll be surprised what you'll learn no matter who you speak to. Switch those cellphones to flight mode, you'll be shocked what you learn when you’re listening fully. You're listening in technicolor, rather than in black and white.
[0:45:53.5] MB: Two great recommendations. We usually ask our guests for one action tip, or practical piece of advice or homework for the listeners to execute, take home from the episode, I think both of those are great pieces for that. I have one other question, which I'm curious. One of the key components and this is something that I've unpacked a little bit just from some of the stories you've told is that you seem to be a master at asking great questions. How did you develop that skill set?
[0:46:21.3] OT: I think it was from watching other great masters asking questions. I think it's when you see the impact a question has on others and particularly for me in my case, so that question that we talked about right at the beginning when mind Matt, asked me the question, do you think you can achieve that goal in your lifetime? I said no. It was a great question. It’s simple. If you can achieve it in your lifetime, it's not ambitious enough.
Now it didn't matter what I said. The point he was trying to make was are you being ambitious enough in what you're trying to achieve? Now he could have said to me, “You're not being ambitious enough.” Yet the distinction that he made was really potent to me. If I can own my own change through my own awareness of the gap between where I am today and where I need to be in the future, I'm more likely to do it than if somebody tells me to do it. The only way you can get someone to notice the gap between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow is not by telling them, it's by asking them a question.
Matt, if you were in my studio right now, on my right is a 4-foot poster of Yoda. On my left is a 2-foot stuffed Yoda and all across my shelves are various Yodas. Yoda asks lots of questions too. People have told me that my questions are Yoda-like. Ultimately, if you ask questions it means your attention is on them and not on you. Wow, it couldn't well be a different place if we all started to put our attention on the other, rather than just ourselves.
I think for me, I always talk great questions by other people. The thing I always do is ask myself this, it's what I'm about to say next? Is a question for me and my understanding. It's the wrong question. It needs to be about them and their understanding. That's a tough muscle to develop. It's really hard to keep your orientation and your attention on them, rather than, “Ah, it doesn't make any sense to me.” I work with actuaries inside insurance companies who calculate all kinds of things, the likelihood that your car’s going to be in an accident. If you contract some disease, how long you might live?
I have this thing called discalculus, which is my ability to transpose numbers. It’s not a good skill to have. It basically means that if you were to read out a telephone number to me, there's 25% chance I'd get it wrong. I'm not really good at maths, Matt. Yet, I consult to a lot of actuaries and insurance companies who have an amazing relationship with maths. Despite that, they will find me really helpful, because I never ask questions where I'm trying to understand the formula. I'm trying to help them understand their thinking and their formula as well.
I don't think, I wish I had a more elegant answer for you, Matt, about how do I learn to ask questions. I think for me, I've learned a lot by watching skillful questioners. The other thing I've always done consistently is ask myself that question, is this question for me or is it for them? I think, the more powerful questions will always be orientated around helping them.
[0:49:58.3] MB: The magic happens when you put your attention on other people, instead of just putting it on yourself. Such great wisdom, Oscar. Where can listeners find you, your work and everything we've talked about today online?
[0:50:12.2] OT: Really, simply if you just go to listeningmyths.com, there you'll be able to download those five practical tips that we talked about to keep you on track; switching off the cellphone, glass of water. There's a couple of other tips in there that just going to keep you on track for a little bit longer. Listeningmyths.com, that's the entry point to everything, Matt.
[0:50:39.6] MB: Well Oscar, thank you so much for coming on the show, for sharing all these wisdom, incredible and insightful stories and such a great conversation. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show.
[0:50:51.1] OT: Thanks for listening.
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