Getting to Yes, And

Jonah Berger: The Catalyst


Jonah Berger

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Kelly connects with Wharton professor and bestselling author Jonah Berger to talk about his new book "The Catalyst."

You open the book with a story of a hostage negotiator who starts his process with good listening and that’s an improv thing.

“Before we start, I am bad at improv. I love it and I think it's very valuable, as we were talking about. I think everyone should take an improv class in their life. I think it should be a mandatory course, even at liberal arts colleges. It's a great life skill. That doesn't mean I'm good at it. I am terrible at it but I enjoy it. You know, starting with listening is really key.”

Ha, okay. But I think the key here is that it’s deep listening in both cases - it’s listening to understand the wants and needs of the person you are negotiating or improvising with.

“If we're in marketing or sales or trying to change the client’s mind; if we're an employee trying to change our bosses mind;  if we're a leader, we're trying to change organizational culture; if we're a startup trying to change an industry; if we're a nonprofit, we're trying to change the world. But change is really, really hard and too often we go for that default: what's the thing I want to achieve, right, what's the outcome I want to achieve, without stepping back and saying, Well, wait, why hasn't this person changed already? What's stopping them? And that's where I think that idea from improv is really, really key. Because if we don't understand the person we're trying to change: who they are and what's driving them, if we don't start with listening, it's going to be really hard to move people.”

One of the elements in your book that really struck me was that even before listening, we have to work to remove the barriers between us. If we want change, that’s vital.

“For physical objects - if there's a chair in the middle of a room and I want to move that chair - pushing is a great way to move that chair. I push it, it goes. When we push people, though, they don't just go.  Right? Because people aren't chairs. When we push people, they dig in their heels. They push back. They often do the exact opposite of what we want them to do. And so that's really where we have to start - with understanding and to identify those barriers. We need to figure out why people haven't changed, and only then, once we've mitigated those barriers, can we really drive action.”

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