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  • Writer's pictureDavid de Souza

'Just Listen' - 80/20 Summary

Updated: Nov 16, 2022


5 Mental Models from the book:

I have summarized 'Just Listen', distilling the book into 5 core principles:

1. Action & Reaction: Newton's Third Law

  • Mirror and reflect back. When you do people will feel understood and be drawn towards what you have to say.

2. Emotions:

  • People behave their worst when they feel powerless. Help people to diffuse their emotions:

    1. Avoid interrupting when someone is venting.

    2. After they have unloaded on you, say: "Tell me more"

  • Ask questions that allow people to offer advice, asking it makes people feel wise and interesting. For example:

    1. "That's amazing, you grow all of your own herbs? How do you keep your cilantro from bolting?"

    2. "With your experience, what do you think is the most important thing that I should do...."

2.1 Emotions: Anger

  • When someone starts venting uncontrollably, ask camly: "Do you really believe that?"

  • The next time a known complainer comes to see you with a problem, let them speak for a sentence or two and they say: Karen, what you're saying is important and I want to give it my undivided attention, which I am not able to give to you now because I'm in the middle of xyz. Can you come back in 2 hours when I will be able to give you my full attention for 5 minutes and then I can help you with what's on your mind. In the meantime can you think about what you want to tell me and what you'd like me to do and if it's possible? Figure those things out and I'll be happy to help in any way that I can."

3. Momentum

  • Being the first person to ask a question after a talk is an effective way to get through to powerful people. Not only is it a way to make an impression with the audience (who you may meet afterward), as they will appreciate someone having the courage to ask the first question, but the speaker will also appreciate you for getting the ball rolling and it may be an opportunity to connect with them afterward via Email or in person.

4. Reciprocity

  • If you try and reason with someone who is mentally ill they will feel attacked and repeat what they have always felt before, like the world is sane and they are crazy, which is a lonely place to be. If you mirror the person, they will feel less alone. When they feel less alone, they will feel relief and be more likely to relax. As a result, they will feel grateful and due to reciprocity, open their mind.

5. Resistance

  • Lecturing people doesn't work as it makes people become defensive. Instead, try and work or a joint activity to lower their guard and get them to open up. This is what hostage negotiators do, they work on a joint activity such as getting food or medical supplies.

  • The most critical step is know as "Buy in".This is the point at which the person goes from resisting to listening (and then to considering what is being said). The key to getting buy-in is saying what the other person is thinking (but not saying).

  • When you ask a direct question, it puts people on edge. They might feel under pressure or put on the spot. The fill-in-the blank technique avoids you making wrong assumptions. It disarms people because you combine words with hand gestures that invite the other person to uncross their arms. For example:

    1. "You're thinking of buying our software, or a product like it, because (gesture insitingly with your hands)"

    2. "And by changing to our software you are hoping to accomplish....?"

    3. If you fail in a sale say: "I either pushed to hard or failed to address something that was important to you, didn't I?" And then say: "And the point that I went too far or the points that I failed to address are....?


Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email ( or on Twitter.

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