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Michele Hansen  0:01  
Hey, everyone, Michele here. Colleen is at a conference this week. So doing something a little bit different this week and wanted to give you a preview of the audio book podcast for Deploy Empathy. So as I've kind of mentioned on previous episodes, I am releasing the audio book every week as a podcast as I record it. Part of the idea of this was kind of to sort of sort of do like I did with the newsletter with the book and sort of you know, do it and you know, sort of chapters at a at a time. And so I didn't have to spend you know, two weeks recording which is just, I didn't didn't really have two weeks, you know, of full workdays to sort of lock myself in a closet and record it. So this is allowing me to record it as I have time. Which is kind of a challenge as I say this right now, my desk is literally surrounded and pillows from the last time I recorded which was like two weeks ago. So So yeah, it's been it's been kind of an interesting challenge. But I have been enjoying it. And it's also allowed me to get feedback on it as well. This is my first time recording an audio book. So if anything sounds weird, or whatnot, like people can, you know, give me feedback, and I get a chance to re record as I go. So, so yeah, so it started in I want to say the end of August. And currently, it's on Part Six, which is the how to talk so people will talk section of the book, which is maybe my favorite section of the book. I admit I was a little bit nervous going into recording these chapters because the tone of voice is so important. And I wanted to make sure that I got that right. And I think I got a little bit in my head about that. But I think it I think it came out Okay, so I think I think I'm happy with it. But so yeah, so So this week you're gonna get a chance to preview the the the private podcast, there are still spots in it if you want to join so it's limited to 500 people and right now I think there's about a little under 200 so there's quite a few spots left if you wanted to, to join along, but also you know what, once the full thing is recorded, which I don't really I guess it'll be sort of end of the year early next year. You know, it'll also be available as a regular audio book not quite sure what I'm going to do with the podcast I'm actually kind of curious to hear if people want that to stick around or whatnot. I don't I wonder if it makes it more digestible to get through but maybe that value is on the you know that it's coming out every week, right now. So yeah, hope you enjoy and Colleen and I will be next back next week.

Part Six, how to talk So people will talk. This is the most important part of this book. The tactics you'll learn build toward one goal, creating a bubble of suspended judgment, where the person feels comfortable being open. Throughout this part, you'll also find ways to practice these skills before using them in customer conversations. We'll go into each of these in depth one, use a gentle tone of voice to validate them. Three, leave pauses for them to fill for, mirror and summarize their words. Five, don't interrupt, six, use simple wording. Seven asked for clarification, even when you don't need it. Eight. Don't explain anything. Nine. Don't negate them in any way. And let them be the expert. Love it. Use their words and pronunciation 12 asked about time and money already spent. Lastly, you'll learn how to pull it all together by picturing yourself as a rubber duck. Trust me, it'll take you some time and some practice. But I think you'll notice a difference even in your personal life. By using these phrases and tactics. I want you to make me a promise, you'll only use what I'm about to teach you for good, you won't be manipulative, and you won't use what people say against them. deploying the tactics in this chapter can make someone open up to you much more than they otherwise would. Someone's confidence is a sacred gift. And it should be handled gently, respectfully and ethically. That respect should continue after the interview to I expect you to carry through the empathy you build for the customer well beyond the interview, and use empathy as part of your decision making process. Before we get into the tactics and phrases, it's important to understand just how much these tactics can transform a conversation. I got my start doing proper customer interviews in the personal finance industry. In America, people are generally very private about their personal finance decisions and situations. It's an extremely delicate topic. And because of this, I had to learn interviewing in a rigorous way. I didn't realize how much the techniques outlined in this chapter had woven themselves into my everyday conversation habits until I was at the grocery store a few years ago, I was in line with a dozen items and notice that the cashier hugged the woman in front of me, and they interacted with one another in a heartfelt way. I must have just finished an interview because I found myself asking the cashier about it. me with a smile. Oh, I noticed you hugged her. Is that your sister? cashier? No, she's just a longtime customer. I've worked here for a long time. me. Oh, you have? cashier? Yeah, almost 20 years. I'm due to retire soon. Companies changed a lot in that time. me. Oh hasn't. cashier proceeds to tell me about how the store chain was bought out by another chain 10 years ago, how they changed the retirement plan how she's worried about having enough income from Social Security, her 401k her old pension and retirement and how she's making extra 401k contributions. This was all in the span of less than five minutes. As she rang up the dozen or so items I had in my basket. It's important to note that this cashier wasn't just a particularly chatty person. This was my local grocery store. And I had been there a few times per week. For several years at this point. I'd been in this woman's line many many times. And we had never had more than a simple polite conversation about the weather, or how busy the store was that day. I went home and told a former co worker about it and joked Do I have Tell me about your retirement planning written on my forehead. I was amazed that a stranger had told me that kind of information in such a short amount of time. My former co worker pointed out that it was a sign of just how much interview skills had worked themselves into my everyday conversation style. And how I become so much more effective at digging into the heart of an issue without too much effort. For someone who's only negative mark in their first professional performance review was that I was abrasive and was diagnosed with a DD it'll 11 years old, it came as quite a shock to realize I now had an active listening conversation style without even realizing it. That experience taught me how we need to be careful with these skills, and to know when to hit the brakes. It's a person's decision what to reveal. But I always keep that story in mind and remind myself to back off or shift topics. When it seems like someone is on the verge of saying too much. It's possible to make someone too comfortable and safe. It's always okay to say thank you for telling me that I was wondering if we could go back to something you said earlier. I'm curious about something else. It also reminded me of how so many people don't have people in their lives who will just listen to them. Especially about things that are processes or tasks they complete daily or goals that are top of mind. The cashier at the grocery store clearly spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about the different sources of Income she'd have in retirement and whether they would be enough, but maybe didn't have anyone who would listen to her talk about that. I find that once you build trust with someone and show them that you're willing to listen, they will talk. Because no one has ever cared about that part of their daily life before. Maybe they grew up to a co worker about how long something takes, but they've probably never sat down and had someone genuinely ask them what they think about creating server uptime reports or following up on invoices, they've probably never really talked through where they spend a lot of time the tools they use, and so forth. They've probably never had anyone care enough to try to make it better for them. Just being a presence who's willing to listen is more powerful than people realize how customer interviews differ from other kinds of interviews. If you're already familiar with other kinds of interviewing, it might be interesting for you to read with an eye for how this kind of interviewing differs, journalistic interviewing, motivational interviewing and a negotiation based interview all bears similarities to user interviewing, yet they also have significant differences. The first professional interview I ever did was the summer I was interning at the Washington bureau of a British newspaper. the BP oil spill had happened a few months earlier. And my boss asked me to interview someone thinking back that was a very different interview from the customer interviews I started doing years later, in that BP oil spill interview, I was digging for information and I was looking for specific quotes that could be used in an article I already knew about the oil spill, so I wasn't looking to learn their perspective on it. Instead, I needed them to say specific things and say them in a quotable way. Customer interviews by contrast, are all about diving into how the other person perceives an experience and intentionally suspending the desire to validate your own ideas. Later, after the interview has finished, you can analyze the interview and see what opportunities might exist. We'll talk about that more in Part Eight analyzing interviews. Chapter 25 use a gentle tone of voice.

In Chris Voss, his book never split the difference. He suggests using a late night DJ voice in negotiations. You're listening to wb mt 88.3 FM therapists will often speak in soft slow voices as a method of CO regulation to calm their patients. These techniques help put the other person at ease and create an environment where they feel safe. These techniques apply when you're talking to customers to a customer interviews should be conducted in the most harmless voice you can possibly muster. Imagine you're asking a treasured older family member about a photo of themselves as a young person. There might be a gentle, friendly tone of voice, a softness to your tone, genuine judgment free curiosity. Or perhaps picture that a close friend has come to you experiencing a personal crisis in the middle of the night. You would listen to them calmly and just try to figure out what was going on. You probably wouldn't start offering ideas or solutions to their problem and would focus on helping them get back to a clear state of mind. use that same gentleness in your customer interviews. It's important to note though, that you cannot be condescending. I purposefully do not say to speak to them like you would a child because people have very different ways of talking to children. Think of your customer as someone you respect and you can learn from because you should and you can. Why did you do it that way set in a medium volume voice with emphasis on certain words could make it sound accusatory and put them on the defensive versus will lead you to do it like that. And a gentle, unassuming, curious voice will help them open up. Try this now. The next time a friend or family member comes to you with a problem. Intentionally use the gentlest voice you can muster when you talk to them. The next time use your normal approach. Notice whether the person reacts differently. Chapter 26 validate them. books on product development often talk about validation, validating ideas, validating prototypes, validating business models.

This chapter is about an entirely different kind of validation. It's a pivotal part of getting someone to open up to you. This chapter is about what psychologists and therapists describe as validating statements. These are specific phrases you can use to show someone that you're engaged with what they're saying. It's okay to have trepidation about what you would say in an interview, and how you would come up with follow up questions. Yet most of what you say during an interview aren't questions at all. Instead, you use validating statement It's that shows someone you're open to what they're saying and are listening. Your goal is for them to talk as much as possible. And you as little aim for the interviewee to do 90% of the talking in the interview. In a customer interview, you use validation, even when you don't necessarily agree with what they say. Or even if what they say sounds absurd to you. It does not mean that you agree with them. It is instead a way of recognizing that what they think and do is valid from their perspective. You cannot break that bubble of trust ever, even when something wacky cans, which I can. In a memorable interview years ago, the interviewee suddenly said, Sorry, I'm eating a case of beer right now, about 45 minutes into the phone call. Mind you, this person had given zero previous indications that they were eating. My research partner, the unflappable research expert, Dr. Helen fake, just rolled with it and said, Oh, you're fine. Notice what she said there. She didn't say no worries or not a problem or don't worry about it, all of which either hinge on negating a negative word, worries problem, and thus leave the negative word in the person's mind. Or invalidating instead told him he was fine. Not, that's fine, which is abstract. But explicitly putting the interviewee as the subject. And that saying that he is fine, which validated his state as a person. It was subtle yet next level of conversational jujitsu that will start to come naturally to you, the more you practice this, you also cannot say that you agree with them, or congratulate them, or do anything that implies that you have an opinion. Even if it's a positive opinion, this is probably one of the strangest parts of how to make an interview flow. And for many people, it runs counter to their built in instincts to be positive and encouraging. The person you're interviewing may ask you if you agree, and you need to purposely find a way to make that question go away. I can see where you're coming from on that. Can you tell me rather than Yeah, I agree. agreeing or disagreeing will remind them that you're a human being with opinions and judgments, and the trust will start to melt away, you almost want them to forget that you're a person. For example, when I was interviewing people about their finances, they would admit to doing things that a financial planner or portfolio manager would never endorse, even though we knew that we couldn't correct them. We also couldn't agree with them, either. We were searching for their internal logic and thought processes. And if we were introduced outside information, or agree or disagree with them, they would have shifted into trying to impress us and holding back information, examples of validating statements. That makes sense. I can see why you would do it that way. I'm interested to hear more about how you came to doing it that way. Would you be able to walk me through the context behind that? I can see what you're saying. It sounds like that's frustrating. That sounds like that's time consuming. It sounds like that's challenging. Sounds like you think that could be improved? Can you help me understand What went through your mind? When? Can you tell me more about? It makes sense. You think that? It makes sense? You do it that way? Sounds like there are several steps involved. I'm curious, can you walk me through them? Sounds like a lot goes into that.

When using validating phrases, I encourage you to use the word think instead of feel. Some people I've noticed will find it insulting to say that they feel a certain way. But think is interpreted as more neutral and factual. For example, you feel the process is complicated. Versus you think the process is complicated, or better. The process is complicated. And remember, most people like to think their job is challenging. years ago, I heard someone talk about their recent move to LA. their spouse was in the entertainment industry and this person was not. And they kept finding themselves struggling to make conversation at cocktail parties. But eventually they learned a trick. Whenever someone said what they did, they replied with that sounds challenging. Even if the person's job sounded easy or boring. People would open up because it felt like a compliment. And it would lead to an interesting conversation about the things that person did at work. What that person found was that encouraging someone to keep talking requires Turning the conversation back over to them. Rather than offering your own ideas. Try this now. The next time a friend or family member shares a problem with you and does not explicitly ask you for advice, say that makes sense or another one of the validating statements mentioned previously, rather than offering a solution. Sometimes people say I just don't know what to do, which sounds like an invitation to offer a solution but may not be. If that happens, ask them about what they've already tried. Chapter 27 leave pauses for them to fill. Several years ago, I was sitting in the audience at the DC tech meetup. I was there to support a friend who was giving a presentation. And something one of the panelists said stuck with me and it's something I remind myself about during every customer interview. Radio producer melody Kramer was asked what she had learned while working for Terry Gross host of the long running NPR interview show fresh air. She said that Terry Gross his interview strategy is to ask a question and then to wait and wait and wait at least three long beats until it is uncomfortable. Quote, the other person will fill the silence and what they fill it with will often be the most interesting part of the interview. I remember Cramer quoting gross as saying this tactic of saying something and then waiting at least three beats for the other person to fill it is something that I use in every single interview often multiple times. The length of what feels like a long pause varies from person to person. The research of linguist Dr. Deborah Tannen, shows that people from different American regions tend to have different conversation styles. A coordinator her research, people from the northeastern us may talk over one another to show engagement. While California and may wait for a pause to jump in. People from different continents can have different conversation styles to people from East Asia may wait for an even longer pause and could interpret what seems like a suitable pause to the California as an interruption. A three beat pause may seem long disarm and normal to others. I encourage you to experiment with us and add an extra two to three beats on top of whatever is normal for you. In addition to pauses, I also encourage you to notice whether you provide prompts and additional questions. What do you do if the other person doesn't respond right away? Imagine you're trying to figure out what kind of delivery to order for dinner with a friend or spouse. Do you say Where should we order takeout from and let it hang? Perhaps you had possible answers like where should we order takeout from? Should we get pizza? Chinese sushi? One of the ways people make a typical conversation flow is by adding these sorts of little prompting words, when someone doesn't reply immediately. Maybe the prompting is an offering answers like above. And it's just a rephrase without offering an answer like where should we order takeout from? Do you wanna? while adding gesticulation. In an interview, you need to avoid prompting as best as you can, lest you influence the person's answer. When you ask a question, you need to let it hang and let the customer fill the silence. So can you tell me why you even needed a product like your product in the first place? And wait?

Don't prompt. If they don't reply right away? Don't say was it for use case one, or maybe use case two? Just wait. I know how hard this is. In fact, there's a point in the example customer interview where I slipped up and prompted cool was there, or is there anything else? Did you have any other questions or?

Drew  24:10  
No, I think that's everything I have.

Michele Hansen  24:14  
Now, sometimes it might get truly awkward. The person you're interviewing may not respond. If they say, Are you still there? You can gently bring the conversation back to focus on them and say something that elevates what they've already said like, Yeah, I was just giving you a moment to think. Oh, I was just jotting down what you just said that seemed important. And then rephrase what you'd like them to expand on. Yes, I'm still here. Do you want to come back to that later? Oh, we just sounded like you're about to say something. If anything too long pauses and the interviewers phrases the follow, make the customer feel even more important and reinforce that they are in the dominant role in this conference. It puts them in the role of teacher which marketing psychology expert Dr. Robert Steele, Dini, has identified as a powerful way of influencing another person's behavior. You want them to teach you about their view of the process. And this sort of almost differential treatment through pauses, helps elevate them into that teaching position. To get the answers you need about the customers process, you need to create a safe judgment free environment, you need to hand the stage entirely over to the customer, and talk as little as possible. And leaving silences without prompting is one of the ways you can do that. Try this now. The next time you're having an everyday conversation, not a tense conversation, not appointed conversation. Notice whether you ask a question and wait. Chapter 28 mirror and summarize their words. I have a friend who used that a parrot named Steve. I remember listening amused as he told me about the conversations he had with Steve. This was years before I learned about active listening. And now it makes more sense to me why parrots are great conversationalist, even though their vocabulary is limited. What parents do is repeat words back at people and repeating words back at someone and rephrasing what they've said, as the magical power of encouraging them to elaborate. It's a tactic that therapists and negotiators use all the time. CHAPTER TWO OF never split the difference by Chris Voss is a deep dive on mirroring. And you can also learn about it and nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Consider this excerpt from the example interview, I wasn't

Drew  26:44  
really seriously considering anything that had a paywall on it was I wasn't sure that it would ever pay itself back off. I knew there were other options out there that would either require moving our storage and our database altogether, which didn't really seem appealing, or having two different services, one to manage each. But then the storage still being just as complicated only somewhere else.

Michele Hansen  27:07  
It sounds like you had a lot of things you were trying to like wave back and forth about whether you should sort of try to plunge forward with this thing that was already being very frustrating. Or then all of the the negative effects of switching and all the complications that that would introduce.

Drew  27:23  
I really didn't want to spend a whole lot of time investing, you know, building up a new infrastructure for a new product for new servers to handle this one thing that I think the most frustrating part was that it worked in now it doesn't.

Michele Hansen  27:36  
You'll notice there aren't any question marks and what I said as a follow up. I rephrased what he said as a statement, which then prompted him to expand on it. This is a combination of two conversation tactics, mirroring and summarizing, mirroring is repeating what someone has said. And summarizing is when you rephrase what they have said, and sometimes label their feelings, you can hear another example of mirroring in the sample interview, he describes himself running into a lot of walls, jumping through a lot of hoops. And that phrasing is mirrored back for elaboration.

Drew  28:10  
And Firebase Storage just did not work as easily. As it was we found ourselves running into a lot of walls, jumping through a lot of hoops just to make the simplest things work.

Michele Hansen  28:22  
Can you tell me a little bit more about those hoops and walls that you ran into? negotiation expert Chris Voss notes that it's important to say it rather than I, when summarizing, it sounds like is more neutral, then I'm hearing that since in the second one, you're centering yourself as the subject, but the first phrase centers the situation. For example, if your spouse or roommate comes home seeming frazzled, man, what a day, I had, like 10 calls today. You mirroring. You had 10 calls today. The other person? Yeah, and then my last one didn't even show up and I'd had to cut the previous call short to make it. If I'd known they weren't going to show up. I could have gotten this thing sorted out and then I wouldn't have to work tonight. You summarizing and labeling. Sounds like you had a lot of calls today. And because someone didn't show up, you're feeling frustrated that you have to finish your work tonight. Notice that none of these follow ups or questions? Oh, are you talking to new clients? The clarifications are simple restatements of what the person has said without added editorial zation of the events. Try this now. When a friend or family member says something to you about their day, try stating back at them what they've said. Then try summarizing what they've said as a statement. Sometimes a gentle upward tone implies interest more depending on the person

Creators and Guests

Michele Hansen
Michele Hansen
Co-Founder of Geocodio & Author of Deploy Empathy
2022, Software Social