I Hate This …

I really do hate manipulation. Nonetheless, I thought I’d share this “obvious” listening strategy—it was used, to great effect, on me, even though I knew precisely what was happening as it went down.

First comes my belief that Serious Training in listening-information extraction is a “Top 5″ skill for leaders, and non-leaders for that matter. And I believe, furthermore, that it can be learned/”trained in.” (In Tom’s GTDMBA—Getting Things Done MBA—there will, in fact, be a core course in Strategic Listening-Interviewing, and a couple of advanced electives.)

Now to the “tricks”:

(1) Nod (interviewer) until your head flies off! I was interviewed several times during last week’s Vilnius-Tallinn-Helsinki fling. One interviewer was a Professional Nodder. And the more she nodded the more I spilled my guts—if I’d been a mass murderer, I’ve no doubt that I would have fessed up on the spot! Seriously, very seriously, nodding is virtually irresistible. It, obviously, which is the “secret,” plays to one’s ego—”What you are saying is so profound, so true … please keep going.” That’s the implicit message. Just try and stop going—and perhaps spilling your guts!

(2) The second “strategy” (trick?!) is a simple variation on the theme: Take copious notes! Of course it’s a good idea in general—but, hey, you can be making a shopping list if you want. Once again, the act of note taking is an ego-stroker: “Goodness, I’ve got to record every word of your invaluable thoughts.”

And that’s it. Am I “fessing up” to a Big Ego? Nope. Or, rather, we all have big egos wired in. And actually, I don’t even need the ego explanation, though I believe it. All I need is to trot out BF Skinner‘s rats; this is the effect of positive reinforcement at its most primitive.

(There’s a wonderful social psych experiment where a classroom full of students is instructed by a psych professor to nod whenever the prof moves to his right—and not to nod when he moves to his left. The video is hilarious: In short order, the poor soul, PhD in physics notwithstanding, is backed into the far right of the classroom!)

Tom Peters posted this on April 2, 2009, in Strategies.
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