808: How to Become a Great Listener with Oscar Trimboli

By October 13, 2022Podcasts



Oscar Trimboli explores the science behind listening–and how you can become great at it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The difference between a good listener and a great one
  2. How to get into the great listening mindset
  3. The one question that will cut your meetings in half

About Oscar

Oscar Trimboli is an author, host of the Apple award-winning podcast Deep Listening and a sought-after keynote speaker. Along with the Deep Listening Ambassador Community, he is on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the workplace.

 He is the author of How to Listen – Discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication – the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace, Deep Listening – Impact beyond words and Breakthroughs: How to Confront Assumptions. We adapted our previous episode with Oscar into the LinkedIn Learning course called  How to Resolve Conflict and Boost Productivity through Deep Listening.

Oscar is a marketing and technology industry veteran working for Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Polycom, and Vodafone. He consults with organizations including American Express, AstraZeneca, Cisco, Google, HSBC, IAG, Montblanc, PwC, Salesforce, Sanofi, SAP, and Siemens.

Oscar loves afternoon walks with his wife, Jennie, and their dog Kilimanjaro. On the weekends, you will find him playing Lego with one or all his four grandchildren.

Resources Mentioned

Oscar Trimboli Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Oscar, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Oscar Trimboli
Good day, Pete. Looking forward to listening to your questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, look forward to listening to your answers and insights. It’s been about two years since we last spoke. And I’m curious to hear, any particularly exciting lessons learned or updates?

Oscar Trimboli
Well, we’ve spent our last two years going into deep research on listening in the workplace with the research over 20,000 workplace listeners. We’ve published a book How to Listen, to make the title really simple, and we’re tracking 1410 people who’ve put up their hand who want to be part of a long-term study about how their listening behaviors change in the workplace.

So, through that research, we’ve got a view on that by country, we’ve got a view on that by gender, we’ve got a view on that by industry and professions, so that’s really rich information that tells us what really gets in the way of people’s listening in the workplace. And for a lot of us, there’s so many distractions that are getting in our way, and that’s just level one. It’s a first level of distractions that people are dealing with.

So, for me, I guess, many things changed my mind about listening, and I think the big thing was how to help people become conscious of listening for similarities versus listening for difference. And there’s a beautiful story that three is half of eight, just would love to get into it a little later on.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, let’s do it. So, I’m intrigued, with all this research, any new discovery that was particularly surprising or counterintuitive or striking to you being a listening expert?

Oscar Trimboli
I think it comes down to the importance of the self-awareness bias. So, one of the questions we ask people in the research is, “Rate yourself as a listener,” and then we got them to rate others from the perspective of a speaker. And what was fascinating in this research, on a five-point scale from well below average, below average, average, well above average, etc., 74.9% of people rated themselves either well above average or above average listeners. So, three quarters of people think they’re above average listeners.

When we ask the question the other way, from the speaker’s perspective, 12% of people rated the person listening to them above average or well above average. So, there’s a six times delta in the perception of myself as a listener versus what the speaker perceives your listening quality to be. So, the value of listening sits with the speaker not with the listener.

And this is completely counterintuitive because there are so many listening filters that are in people’s way. And the first filter is the filter that we think that we’re good listeners. We don’t have frameworks. The periodic table of elements is a beautiful example of an international guide that’s consistent across the world that tells us high energy, low energy, dense and light material, but we don’t have the equivalent for listening. And we can probably speak about wine and cheese better than we can about listening.

So, learning, the thing that was counterintuitive for me was, “Why do people think they’re above average listeners?” And a lot of people just simply said, “Well, because I think I am.” Whereas, there’s a very clear descriptors in math, in the way language is constructed with nouns and verbs and adjectives, there isn’t an equivalent framework for listening. And when people start to go, “Oh, okay, maybe I’ve got some room for some improvement.”

So, adult learning theory will always tell us that improvement only happens when awareness is high, Pete, the need for change is high. So, this six times gap, Pete, is the biggest thing that I’ve learned. It’s like, “Wow, I knew there was a gap but, mathematically, six times was huge.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then that’s intriguing. And could we zoom out a little bit and hear about the big idea or core thesis in the book How to Listen?

Oscar Trimboli
In How to Listen, we want people to know the difference between a good listener and a great listener is a good listener will listen to make sense of what’s said, and great listeners help the speaker make sense of what they’re thinking. And the reason there’s a fundamental disconnect between the thinking speed of the speaker, on average 900 words per minute, and the speed at which they can speak, which is about 125 words per minute, so the likelihood that the first thing they say is what they’re meaning, it’s 14%.

And great listeners are conscious of this gap and move their orientation from, “How does this make sense for me?” to “How does this make sense for them?” and, ultimately, “How does it make sense for us in the outcome that we’re trying to achieve, not just in one-on-one conversations, but also in group meetings and organizational systems as well?” So, good listeners are focused on what’s said, and great listeners are focused on what’s not said.

Pete Mockaitis
Whew, so much good stuff to get into there. And that’s a handy framework there in terms of, “Oh, yeah, I’m a good listener because I absorbed a few of the things that you said. Therefore, I’m a great listener and ask for you to just raise the bar here.” It’s like, “Ah, but did you understand it and reflect it so well that the speaker themselves said, ‘Oh, wow,’ you’re taking it to a higher place and they themselves understand better what they are trying to convey.” That sounds awesome. Oscar, tell us, how do we ascend to such a level?

Oscar Trimboli
Well, I think getting the basics right is crucial, and a lot of us don’t set ourselves up for the basics. But let’s come back to listening for similarities and differences. Jennifer is a primary school teacher, and she’s raising her family, and she’s at home, and her son Christopher is three years old, comes home from school. And, like any good mom, she says, “What did you learn at school today, honey?” And he said, “I learned math today, mommy. I learned that three is half of eight.”

Now, Jennifer is a busy mom where she’s rushing around the house, she’s got other things going, and she misheard him, she was sure. And she said, “Honey, could you say that again?” And he said, “Yes, mom. I learned that three is half of eight.” And being a primary school teacher, she put her hands on her head, shook her head, and thought, “What are they teaching kids at school these days?” And the first clue is Christopher is three, and he’s already making sense of math.

So, Jennifer goes to the cupboard. She gets eight M&M’s out, and she puts them on the kitchen table, and she lays four M&Ms out like soldiers in a line, and four on the other side as if they’re facing each other. And then she picks Christopher up and puts him on the table, and said, “Honey, could you count these rows of M&Ms?” And he went, “One, two, three, four, mom.” “And on the other side, Christopher.” And he goes there, facing each other, “Four.”

And Jennifer says, “See, Christopher, four, not three is half of eight.” And with that, like Superman, Christopher jumps off the table, goes to a cupboard, pulls out a piece of paper, gets a Sharpie, and draws the figure eight, and shows it to his mom. And then he folds the piece of paper vertically and tears it in half and separates two threes for his mom.

And in that moment, Jennifer realized that the way Christopher appreciates the world was completely different to the way she thinks and processes it, and she knew that something was extraordinarily different about Christopher. Now, I said earlier there’s a hint. He was at school at the age of three. He graduated college much earlier than most, and he’s a world champion bug catcher today.

Pete Mockaitis
Bug catcher.

Oscar Trimboli
And when I say bug catcher, I mean computer software bug catcher.

Pete Mockaitis

Oscar Trimboli
So, he’s solving some of the most complex computer problems around the globe. And what you don’t know about Christopher is he’s neurodiverse, and the way he experiences the world is very different. Now, when you were hearing three is half of eight, three is half of eight, were you screaming at the pod, and saying, “Four is half of eight? What are you talking about, Oscar? You got this story wrong.”

And this is a magnificent example of how we listen to pattern match, how we listen to anticipate, how we fill in with our own experience, education, cultural background, our evidence to code what we think the speaker is going to say next. And in that moment, we spoke earlier 125 words per minute speaking speed and 900 words thinking speed for the speaker, but for the listener, it’s very difficult because you’re listening at 400 words per minute, which means you’ll get distracted, you’ll jump ahead, you’ll anticipate.

Now, Pete, it took a while for you for the penny to drop. And the minute I said he folded the piece of paper in half, you went, “Ah.” But what was going through your mind until that point when we’re talking about three is half of eight?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, with models and mindsets, I’m thinking about, “It’s half of eight in a bigger sense.” I was thinking like strategically, or the 80-20 Principle, or the vital few versus the trivial many. I was like, “Okay, Oscar is probably going to go land somewhere along these lines,” which speaks to my own way of representing the world as opposed to visually the number three looks like half of the number eight, whatever will you do.

Oscar Trimboli
Yeah. And thank you, you were anticipating, you were jumping ahead, you were using historical evidence, and yet zero is half of eight, too.

Pete Mockaitis
It is? Vertically speaking.

Oscar Trimboli
So, if you fold the paper vertically, it’s three. If you fold it horizontally, it’s zero. So, for many of us, you’re going to have a three is half of eight moment every day at work with your manager. You’ll have it with a coworker where they’ll say something and your mind is firing off and going, “They’re completely wrong. I’m going to wait for them to finish but then I’m going to tell them why they’re wrong.”

So, do you operate with a listening mindset that says, “Four is half of eight,” and that’s the only answer and that’s the only correct answer? Or, do you listen for difference and to explore a landscape where zero is half of eight, three is half of eight, four is half of eight, and who knows what else could be half of eight as well?

And I think many of us who operate in complex, collaborative, competitive, constrained environments would probably miss the opportunity because we’re trying to solve, we’re trying to prove, we’re trying to anticipate. And if we can just empty our minds and just be present and ask them to tell you more about that, you’ll soon help the speaker make sense of what they’re saying as well as you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. Thank you. Okay. So, then that’s a really cool illustration right there in terms of, “I’m locked in to how I’m thinking about it. If I think that you’re wrong, I’m already kind of discounting and not listening and are waiting for you to stop talking, or maybe I’m already thinking, ‘How do I kindly say this to Oscar that he’s mistaken? Hmm, let’s see.’ I’m not going to say, ‘You’re wrong.’ I’m going to say, ‘Well, Oscar, have you thought about how, mathematically, eight divided by two equals four?’”

And so, cool, that’s a really helpful story and galvanizing framework. Can you help us unpack a little bit of in the moment of listening, if we catch ourselves doing some of that, what do we do?

Oscar Trimboli
So, the first thing to become conscious of is to notice how you’re listening for similarities or difference. Now, what I want to point out is neither is correct or incorrect, or what’s appropriate for the conversation. So, a simple example is if you’re meeting somebody for the first time, if all you’re doing is listening for difference, it’ll be difficult to form a relationship because you want to find some common point of connection.

But if you’re on a project team, and the project is in its first third and it’s stuck, now is probably a good time to start to listen for difference. And for listening for difference is you need to move your orientation from the current context of the conversation, both zooming out in terms of time, in terms of orientation. So, some questions you could post to yourself is, “Is this true across time? If I went back a decade or went forward a decade, is it possible that what’s being said is true?” If it is, great. you’re starting to open up your mind to listen for difference.

“Is this true in my organization, in all organizations in our industry, in our country?” Again, if you zoom out and ask yourself, “If a competitor was listening to this, would they be agreeing or would they be laughing?” So, move your listening orientation not only to where you’re currently at in the dialogue, but start to ask yourself, “If I came back in ten years, would it matter if they’re right or wrong or can I just listen a little longer?”

Now, three simple questions you can always ask, “Tell me more,” and, “What else?” and the last one is the easiest to say and the hardest to do, it’s also the shortest, here it comes. Now, don’t worry, nothing blanked out on the mic. It’s no coincidence that the word silent and listen share the identical letters. So, for many of us, we just need to pause. The best way to unpack any conversation is to pause because that extra 125 words will come out.

So, Pete, zooming out and zooming in is one way to do it. The other thing to listen for carefully are absolutes. People give away wonderful coded language when they say, “always,” “never,” “precisely,” “impossible.” You start to listen for these code words, you know that there’s an assumption sitting behind that person.

I remember working with a lady who ran an organization that looked after the whole country, and the way they split up their business was commercial customers and private sector customers, sorry, and public sector customers. And the public sector customers, she said, “They never grow. They’re always difficult. It’s really hard. I really just want to shut down that part of the business.”

And hearing the word always, Pete, I simply said back to her, “Always?” And she smiled at me, and she took in a sigh, and she went, “Well, you know what I mean. Not always but mostly.” And I said, “If you lined up all your public sector customers in a room, which ones would be the closest to commercial?” And in that moment, she stared up at the ceiling, it felt like five minutes but it was only 30 seconds, and she looked back at me, and she goes, “There’s five customers that behave like commercial customers, and they’re growing and are really…and our team love working with them. But we’ve put a label on them and we’ve created a barrier to our own growth.”

Anyway, she took that back to her team and they had a whole discussion about these five customers, and they moved those five customers into their own business unit because, in that moment, I simply noticed her using this absolute word, always. So, listen carefully when people would use phrases like always and never and precisely and impossible. When people say that, what they’re sending a listening signal to you is there’s something to explore.

There’s a mental model, there’s a framework, there’s some kind of historical pattern that this person is matching to. But we know we all operate in dynamic systems, whether that’s our workplace, a government organization, a non-for-profit. Be open to the possibility that always is not always. And when you listen in at that level, you’ll help both parties make a big difference.

Now, Pete, it’s impossible to listen at that level if your phone…

Pete Mockaitis
Impossible, Oscar?

Oscar Trimboli
It’s impossible to listen at that level if your head is in a phone, on an iPad, on a computer because listening is something that happens in the modern part of the brain, and there’s a myth around multitasking that many people believe they can listen to a human conversation and actually listen. Now, you can listen to music and drive a car. You can listen to music and cook a meal. Any routine task, you can multitask very easily.

But when it comes to a complex dialogue, language is complex for the brain to process, you need to be present because your working memory, although it will switch between tasks, the consciousness to be present to listen, as you were, Pete, when I say, “It’s impossible to listen to human dialogue,” while doing something else.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Okay. Well, thank you, there’s a lot of goodies here. And it’s funny, as you unpacked a little bit of what listening for difference is, look, sound, feel like, it feels like I found that I was thinking, “I do that all the time, and it’s almost because, I don’t know, I’ve got a strategy consultant brain, and maybe I’m easily bored, and I’m trying to ramp up the intellectual meatiness or challenge of that is listening to someone.” But that’s a really great takeaway is if my main goal is building up relationship, then what I want to be focused on is listening for similarities. So, how do I do that well?

Oscar Trimboli
When you’re listening for similarities, you’re listening for very simple things, either common experience, common contexts, or more often than not, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, it’s a common outcome. So, a really simple question, and the deep listening ambassador community that I mentioned earlier on, 1410 listeners that we’ve been tracking for three years, we’ve got them to test this phrase. And one of my clients in the UK has become quite famous in her industry for using this phrase to find this common connection very early, in fact, immediately at the beginning of the conversation.

And it’s simply this, “What will make this a great conversation?” Now, this is an example of a how question rather than a what question. A how question is about the process of listening versus the content of listening. And Emma, who uses this phrase, had made it her own, she says, “What would make this a great conversation for you?” So, she’s very specific, she’s focused on them. I try my question in neutral, so eight words or less is a good heuristic to think about. Your question is neutral rather than a biased statement.

So, the first question you should always ask is, “What will make this a great meeting for you?” And this is the quickest way to find commonality in the context of this meeting. Now, the reason I say, “What would make this a great meeting?” because, ideally, Pete, you’d love them to ask you the same question as well.

Now, what we’d learned from our research is only 30% of people where the deep listening ambassadors ask that question, the respondents come back and say, “What would make this a good conversation for you, Pete?”

Pete Mockaitis
Take, take, take.

Oscar Trimboli
Now, the neat thing about this question is that it acts like a compass setting for the balance of the conversation. So, I’m going to take you through, let’s call it a one-hour meeting. Now, I don’t recommend one-hour meetings. I recommend 50-minute meetings, and I recommend 25-minute meetings, but we’ll get to that shortly.

With this compass setting, “What will make this a great meeting for you?” They say, “You know, I just want to bounce the idea off you. I don’t want a solution.” Great. No problem. So, if it’s a one-hour meeting, at the 15-minute mark, you can simply ask, “Hey, Pete, at the beginning of our conversation you said you just wanted to bounce the idea off me. How are you going with that?” And Pete says, “You know what, I’ve pretty much exhausted what I want to get out. Let’s cut the meeting. I’ve got what I need.” And off we go.

So, we find commonality in that moment in the context of the conversation. This is the most effective way to do it because many of us are already coded as humans, to start listening for similar emotions, to start to listen for similar backgrounds, stories, “Oh, well, Pete, you’re a strategy consultant. Wonderful. Which kind of strategy firm were you working for? Wow, I had a strategy firm overview my business in the 1980s, in the 1990s. Tell me more about that.” That would be how I would find a connection.

Now, if you and I were having a beer in a bar, I would kind of go the opposite way, and it’s like, strategy consultant actually cost me my job once but that’s a story for another day. So, it’s easy for most us to try and find that connection as humans. We’re kind of trained in that way but to find connection in a conversation, that really simple question at the beginning will shorten your meetings and will get to the essence of the conversation much faster. So, that’s how our deep listening ambassador community are listening for similarities and creating connections early on in the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
So, Oscar, do all of us do listening for similarities and differences in every conversation? Or, do some have a slant or skew that we lean on more often?

Oscar Trimboli
Pete, I think one of the upsides of the pandemic for me is using online polling tools in the webinars I’ve been running. I know I’ve just got past 50,000 people across the English-speaking markets of the world, and, consistently, when I ask this question in a poll slide, which I will ask halfway through most of the webinars I run, “Your primarily listening preference is listening for similarities or listening for difference, listening for the familiar or the contrast.” And it’s very clear and consistent.

The majority of people, 92% on average, are listening for similarities as their primary listening orientation. You would need to be trained very differently because the Western education system from the earliest days all the way through to graduate schools are training people to patent-match and listen to similarities. Neither is right or wrong but just be conscious which one is useful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, this is excellent stuff when it comes to listening for similarities or differences. Do we have some other categories we should explore?

Oscar Trimboli
When I interviewed Ret. Sgt. Kevin Briggs, he’s known as the angel of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, he’s a motorcycle police officer. He’s a first respondent to people who are planning to jump off the bridge, and it’s not a pretty sight when it happens. There’s nothing glamorous about that. And he will get down there as rapidly as possible. And he told me this story about he was talking to somebody on the bridge, and, ironically, this person’s name was also Kevin, so there were two Kevins.

And the first thing Kevin always does on the bridge, he takes his jacket off if they don’t have a jacket on. So, again, he’s creating connection, he’s creating similarity there, and he’s getting down to eye-to-eye level. So, he has to literally look through a beam on the bridge to get to their eye level because to hold onto the bridge, that person has to be facing the traffic.

So, Kevin gets to eye level, which means he needs to kneel down. And as he says, he’s not the youngest person and it’s hard on his knees. Now, what he says is he’s always listening for adjectives. He’s listening for describing words. He’s listening very carefully to the kinds of words that Kevin was using to eventually describe the joy he gets from his daughter when he comes to his life.

And as Kevin explained, he was on the bridge for the best part of an hour with Kevin, and for the first 20 minutes, conversation was short. It was monosyllabic, meaning yes, no, no responses at all, and Kevin just stayed there and was present. But he realized something changed when Kevin, the jumper, started describing richer and more descriptive adjectives about his daughter. So, initially, he mentioned the daughter, and then finally he talked about his energetic daughter, his playful daughter.

These adjectives, these describing words are very interesting cues for us to understand the way people see the world. I was working in an engineering project in a pharmaceutical company, and I was brought in with this project that was literally stalled. All the execs came in, and I’ve got them to write in an envelope one word to describe the project, because the group had very low trust.

Now, when I opened these envelopes up, they described the projects the following way, and they were using adjectives: the political project, the stalled project, the waste-of-time project. All these describing words were really interesting. And the easiest thing for me to do would be to go, “Okay, great. How do we fix it?”

In that moment, I asked the group a really simple question, “Have you described this project to others the way you have anonymously put it in an envelope?” and there was a very, very heated discussion amongst the group about these adjectives they’d never discussed with each other. They were always going through the motions with each other in this big project.

At the lunch break, one of the participants came to me and said, “Oscar, why do you think our group isn’t being honest with itself?” And I said to her in that moment, “Is that a question you’d be comfortable asking the group?” And she said, “Absolutely no way.” And in that moment, I realized that by asking the group to describe the project, not whether it’s making progress or not, the problem was the team listening to itself. The problem wasn’t the project.

Now, after lunch, we had a very robust discussion. Some people might call it an argument. And in that moment, the group moved because they kept coming back to this envelope and using those labels, and, eventually, the group itself had moved on. And the project that had stalled for six months got resolved within a month, even though it was a 12-month project because the group was honest in describing what they were struggling with.

So, for fun sometimes, Pete, you just have to ask people, “What color does it feel like? If this was a drink, what kind of drink would it be? If it was an animal, what kind of animal would it be?”

Pete Mockaitis
What kind of movie would it be?

Oscar Trimboli
Exactly. And they make sense of it much faster because they feel safe describing that movie, that color, that animal, but they don’t find it as safe to describe their own feelings and emotions in that context. So, for everyone, listen at the level of those describing words, and you’ll see the compass direction the conversation should be going in rather than the initial compass setting of the conversation as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Oscar, this kind of feels like a whole another animal, this psychological safety stuff but that’s huge in terms of if they were able to just talk about these things earlier, it probably wouldn’t have gotten stuck for so long. So, any pro tips on how listening can help develop that so people feel more comfortable saying what’s really on their mind and what needs to be said?

Oscar Trimboli
It’s back to that quick comment I mentioned about shorter questions. I think a lot of time, people are listening, and no matter what content the other person is saying, they’re using that to load their argument, “I have to shoot back the next time.”Well, the first tip is to ask questions rather than make statements. So, if you want to increase safety, be open to asking questions, “Pete, I’m curious about what you mentioned on the stalled project. Tell me more about that.”

But for many of us, we want to jump in. We either want to fix, solve, progress. So, the first thing, ask questions. The second thing, try to shorten your questions. The shorter the questions, the bigger the insight. As I mentioned earlier on, just the simple act of being silent will increase psychological safety because they sense your presence.

One thing you want to be conscious of is, when done well, a great listener will change the way a speaker communicates their idea. And because of that, they’ll feel safer to say it as well. Not just the idea that’s on their mind, but the idea that’s on their heart, what their fears are, and their aspirations, not merely the next part of the content in the conversation.

So, my pro tip is simply this. Ask yourself, “Is this question that I’m about to ask designed to help me understand or is it designed to help them expand their thinking?” The highest level of that question is, “Is the question I’m about to ask helpful for me, them, and the outcome we agreed at the beginning of the conversation where we said ‘What would make this a great conversation for you?’”

If you can tick all three boxes, psychological safety is not only present, but it helps both parties explore their fears and their aspirations in that context as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, Oscar, that’s beautiful. Well, tell me, we’ve covered some great stuff this time. Last time, we talked about the five levels of listening, which was beautiful. Is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Oscar Trimboli
For me, it’s simply this. There are four primary barriers we know to listening, whether you’re listening through the lens of time, whether you’re listening through the lens of connection, whether you’re listening through the lens of problem-solving, whether you’re listening through the lens of context. Take the listening quiz, ListeningQuiz.com. It’ll take you five minutes, seven is the maximum somebody has taken, but on average it takes five minutes.

You fill out 20 questions, and would give you a report that tells you what your primary listening barrier is and what to do about it. And we talk about that through the lens of the four villains of listening: dramatic, interrupting, lost, and shrewd, and the report outlines each of those. What we know is that when people become aware of what their primary barrier is, they can do something about it. Earlier on, Pete, we talked about the fact that people don’t often know because they think they’re six times better listener than most people do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s great. Thank you. ListeningQuiz.com.

Oscar Trimboli

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. Well, now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Oscar Trimboli
This comes from a book that maybe most people haven’t read that’s by Neil Ferguson. It’s about a metaphor, The Tower and the Square. And it’s about power, and it’s about the difference between distributed power and hierarchical power, and how, over history, humanity is kind of juggled with both. And Ferguson, he’s a Scottish intellectual, and his quote in the book that really stood out for me is, “Does power exist if it’s not exercised?”

And, initially, I thought, “Wow, it’s something I hadn’t even considered.” And Ferguson’s quote is in the context of those two systems of power, and “Does power exist if it’s not exercised?” And that got me reading up a whole bunch of other books about power over, power across, and how people exercise power as well. But, does power exist if it’s not exercised?

Pete Mockaitis

Oscar Trimboli
And it got me thinking because it was a question. Most quotes aren’t questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Oscar Trimboli
My favorite piece of research was around something I discovered with Speed City. Speed City was the San Jose University athletics team, which was around the Mexico Olympics, and the coach was an ex-military person. And he did very fascinating research around running styles and he broke the mold in running styles because, up until that point, running styles were very prescriptive.

And the coach had gone through, I think it was 12 and a half years of keeping track of high-performing athletes. Now, you have to remember, the athletes he trained held records from the Mexico Olympics for decades into the future in the 200 or 400. The 100 now, there was some advantages of altitude, of course, but not all of it accounts for altitude.

And the study was, and what he proved through his study was relaxing while running rather than being very prescriptive in the coaching, meaning using meditation before running. This was never done beforehand, using visualization before running, that was never used beforehand. And he got all these breakthrough performances.

In listening to the research around Speed City, at exactly the same time over at the University of Tennessee, the women’s running team, they also had breakthroughs using very similar things, and the only time they met was at the Mexico Olympics where they were able to compare notes, despite the fact they were doing this research in parallel for decades into the past. So, it tells you a bit about my running nerdiness, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s fun. Thank you. And a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Oscar Trimboli
Good listeners listen to what’s said. Great listeners help the speaker make sense of what they’re thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Oscar Trimboli
Rather than learn more about me, learn more about your listening. Go to ListeningQuiz.com. Take the quiz and find out what your primary listening barrier is, and take the steps to do something about it. Or, you can get the book How to Listen and spend a bit more time unpacking the difference between good and great listening.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Oscar Trimboli
Just ask one more question. Keep it less than eight words.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Oscar, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much fun listening.

Oscar Trimboli
Thanks for listening.

One Comment

  • Ed Nottingham says:

    Great podcast with Oscar Trimboli! I have been a fan of Oscar’s since reading his first book “Deep Listening,” and have “How to Listen” with plans to start reading soon. Oscar mentions the Listening Quiz (Pete provided the link), and I encourage all to take it an learn about your listening villains. And, Pete, as always thanks for such great podcasts, the links, AND the transcripts!
    Ed in Memphis TN

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