Saturday Morning Rounds May 4, 2019 - On Listening

Posted by BossB, MD on May 4, 2019
BossB, MD
Saturday Morning Rounds
Saturday Morning Rounds
A weekly round-up of everything that captured our attention over the last 7 days

What we're reading

Listening Well by William R. Miller

 This book is spectacular. Coming in at a whopping 95 pages, it's also an easy, short read. Jam-packed with actionable advice on how to improve your listening - a skill that is absolutely essential to negotiating well (and communicating effectively with anyone, be they patients, colleagues, or loved ones) - the book feels like it has a valuable lesson on every single page. In the "BBMD tip of the week", we'll elaborate further on the lesson that stuck with us the most.

Who we're following

Micah Larsen (@ApisCommScience) is a badass communications expert and the founder of Apis Communication Science. She calls herself a "Rogue Persuasion Scientist," and that title checks out. She earned her "Persuasion Scientist" stripes doing research on persuasive health communication to improve patient outcomes, serving as the director of communications in the Texas House of Representatives, and creating a website full of research-backed suggestions on how to move others. How she earned the "Rogue" in her title is a story that you'll have to ask her, but it's not a far stretch for someone who studied sex & evolution at a Christian university and recently ran webinars from her labor & delivery room

So give her a follow and check out the website if you want to learn more about moving others, and don't be surprised if you see some collaborations between us in the future!

BBMD tip of the week

Reflections > Questions

We've talked before about the fact that whoever has the most information in a negotiation tends to win, and how one of the best ways to get such information is by asking open-ended questions. We call this an informational asymmetry, and a lot of our negotiation curriculum focuses on how to create one in your advantage. However, while open-ended questions are absolutely a key skill for effective listening, if you lean on them too heavily your counterpart might feel like they're being interrogated, or like they don't have any power in the conversation - both of which are detrimental to your overall goals. 

So what to do? How can you respond to a counterpart in a way that (a) keeps them talking, (b) doesn't feel interrogative, and (c) doesn't show your hand? That's where the book we've highlighted this week comes in - it centers around the concept of "Reflective Listening" - essentially using more reflection statements than questions. In the author's own words:

"Linguistically a question places a demand on the person for an answer. It is a subtle pressure, a micro-interrogation. Statements typically don't have that effect... Imagine that you're talking to a teenager who has misbehaved in some way. Speak these two lines aloud as a listener:

You don't see anything wrong with what you did?
You don't see anything wrong with what you did.

Can you feel the difference? Somehow the question implies that the person should see something wrong, even it that's not your intention. The statement does not have this connotation, inviting the person to respond more honestly and less defensively. A statement usually sounds more accepting, whereas questions using the same words can feel judgmental."

This may seem like a subtle shift, but if you begin to implement this skill it will have seismic effects on your communication. When we take judgement and defensiveness out of the equation, conversations tend to open up drastically, both providing you key tactical information for the negotiation AND making your counterpart like you more because you're such a good listener.

Starting to use reflections instead of questions will feel super-awkward at first, and you'll likely experience some of pressure not to "get it wrong," so we recommend practicing this extensively before you try to deploy it in a higher-stakes situation. Getting a reflection wrong, by the way, will almost always be met with a correction from your counterpart that is more forward and honest than their answer to a question about the same topic would have been. Here are some more details from the author on how to build this skill:

Quote we're contemplating

"Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer" - Alice Duer Miller 


As always, please let us know your requests and suggestions on Twitter. Which section above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Just send a tweet to @BossB_MD and put #SaturdayMorningRounds in there so we can find it.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!