Mark Goulston: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris


In his career as an organizational consultant, relationship counselor, and hostage-negotiation trainer, Mark Goulston has found what works, consistently, to reach all kinds of people in any type of situation.

In his book Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, he and co-author John Ullmen share what they learned while interviewing more than 100 influential people and distilled a four-step model that they have in common. As he explains, “We are in a ‘post-selling/post-pushing’ world where most people can’t stand to either of these done to them and don’t enjoy when they have to do it to others.” He says, “There is a way to persuade without pushing and that is by positively influencing people, because influence can last a lifetime, whereas persuasion sometimes doesn’t even last until the end of a conversation.”

In his latest book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, Goulston introduces a communication process in a book (first published in 2010) that can help almost anyone get to almost anyone else who may otherwise be inaccessible. Dorothy and her friends were advised to follow the yellow brick road. Goulston advises his reader to follow the five-step “persuasion cycle.” There won’t be any flying monkeys to worry about but there may be distractions so focus on the basic nine rules he identifies and master the twelve “quick techniques” he recommends.

Mark blogs or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Business Insider, and writes the “Closing Bell” for C-Suite Quarterly magazine and the Tribune syndicated column, “Solve Anything with Dr. Mark.” He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Here is an excerpt from my Part 1 of my interview of Mark.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Real Influence and then Just Listen, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Goulston: William (“Mac”) McNary, PhD, Dean of Students, Boston University School of Medicine. One of my greatest personal accomplishments is that I dropped out of medical school twice and finished. I didn’t drop out to see the world. I had hit a wall and although I was passing my courses, I couldn’t retain or recall information. I took my first year off, and recovered enough to come back, but then hit the same wall after being back less than a semester and sought another year off. The Dean of the medical school wanted to have the promotions committee ask me to withdraw (since I wasn’t flunking any courses) because each time I was out, they lost matching funds for an unoccupied place. I couldn’t blame him for doing so.

However Mac stepped in at that point and saw value and a future for me that I didn’t see. He saw that not based on anything I had to do, but based on something he saw in me. And so at a time when I didn’t think I had anything to offer anyone he said, “Mark, even if you don’t finish medical school or become a doctor or do anything else in your life, I’d be proud to know you, because you have goodness in you that the world needs. However you won’t know that until you’re 35…but you have to make it to 35.” (Pause and then pointed his finger at me) “And another thing, Mark. Look at me. You deserve to be on this planet… and you’re going to let me help you.”

Years later I came to believe that Mac was an actual angel sent to save me. Now the good news about being touched and blessed by an angel, is that you walk differently in this world. You are also compelled to pay it forward. So I have even come up with something I call the Diamond Rule, which is: “Do onto others, as someone who loved you did onto you.”

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Goulston: What Mac did for me by not just listening to me, but listening into me and not just understanding me, but causing me to “feel felt” by him is something I use in my professional life. I do my best to follow the directive from psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, which is to listen without memory (a past personal agenda you’re trying to plug someone into) or desire (a present or future personal agenda you’re trying to plug someone into). I do this by practicing and teaching others to be a PAL, which stands for Purposeful Agendaless Listening. Your purpose is to help others self discover through their conversation with you, what is most important, critical and urgent to them.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been valuable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Goulston: My formal education gave me an appreciation for following a process when assessing issues, coming to solutions and then taking action. In medical school that followed: CC (Chief Complaint); HPI (History of Present Illness,); ROS (Review of Systems); PE (Physical Examination); Differential Diagnoses (all the possible diagnoses); Plan, which includes further Diagnostic Tests and Procedures; and ending with Treatment Plan.

At the Goulston Group, our valuing the power of a clear step-by-step process has informed what we refer to as “Disruptive Digestible Business Solutions.” Disruptive because you often have to break through people’s resistance and inertia in ways where an “innovative” solution will not work and Digestible in that everyone who is tasked with executing them (in the areas of Hiring, Business Strategy, Marketing, Consulting, and Selling) will be able to follow all the steps.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Goulston: What I have come to realize is that specialties and silos don’t care about other specialty’s passions, but only care about their bottom line. When we work with IT specialists we have to repeatedly tell them that non-technology people don’t give a hoot about how and why a certain technology works, they just want to be able to use it and have it be reliable. That may explain why a significant number of public company directors don’t even know the name of the CTO. In the world of silos, “my silo is your silo, but your silo isn’t my silo.”

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Mark cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Mark’s Amazon page link

AMA/Amanet link

Patreon link

Goulston Group link

Heartfelt Leadership link

Twitter link

Facebook link

LinkedIn link


C-Suite Quarterly link

Huffington Post link

Psychology Today link

Business Insider link

Leadership Excellence link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s