Why Intentional Listening Translates to Great Conversation

As podcast hosts, we want to bring the most potent messages and stories into the world. When it comes to interviewing guests, your best-laid plans to get that groundbreaking conversation may fall flat.

On a recent episode of Should I Start a Podcast, I spoke with Dr Mark Goulston, the world-renowned business psychiatrist, suicide prevention expert, TEDx speaker and author of the Amazon bestselling book ‘Just Listen.’ 

Mark’s highly successful podcast, My Wakeup Call, dives into meaningful conversations with some of the world’s most prominent innovators and influencers. People like Larry King, Norman Lear and author Jim McCarthy have all stepped up to Mark’s mic and given some insight into what truly matters to them in life.

So how do you get the best out of a conversation? Here are a few simple things you can do to encourage an insightful podcast conversation. 


Just Listen

There are multiple reasons for starting a podcast. Maybe it’s to market your business, network with like-minded people, create a movement or even kick-start a thought-provoking and meaningful conversation.

However, the one thing that most hosts strive for is to learn. If that’s the case, a podcast host should have one job, and one job only – to listen. Forget blabbing on, interrupting or pushing your guest until the point of awkwardness. Listening is the key to effective communication and dialogue.

The myth behind ‘good’ hosting is that it’s all about how you can convey a message. Instead, what we should really be thinking about is how you can listen to absorb that message, not only for your sake but for your listeners too. 

As the interview master, Larry King says, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” 

How often do you catch yourself not listening? Take a step back, create space for your guest to feel safe, allow them to open up and just listen.

 You never know, you may learn something new.

Create a Safe Space 

As podcast hosts, one of our primary goals is to get a valuable conversation going. For us to get there, we need to create a feeling of safety. 

Famous American television and radio host, Larry King, joins Mark for breakfast every morning, 7 days a week. Over their morning coffee and delicious breakfast spread, Mark often casually observes Larry. Why? 

Larry King is one of the best interviewers on the planet. “People love Larry King,” says Mark, “He never gives advice, he never gives a solution. He never comes to a conclusion, he never ambushes a guest,” with the biggest attribution of all, he has zero judgements.

As a podcast host, it is your job to make your guest feel comfortable in order to open up. “People are afraid to open up because their experience is that everybody around them judges them,” says Mark, “so they don’t fully open up.”

Ask your questions from a place of curiosity. Don’t seek to give your own advice, or conjure up solutions. Instead, whatever someone is saying or reporting, understand that there is probably some reason behind it. Ask your questions without judgement.


Share Your Story To Create Openness

There are times when a guest has no interest in engaging in a deep conversation. They clam up, and sometimes you end up with a weird, awkward feeling that lingers in the air. 

Encouraging our guests to open up requires an element of sharing on our part. Sharing a similar story or experience offers a conversational olive branch that most guests will reach for. 

Mark’s show, My Wakeup Call is focused on the life-changing stories of his guest. He finds that creating an atmosphere of openness is the number one way of getting the most from the interview. This is why he allows himself to be vulnerable too.

“The stories I bring up are all stories about self-doubt I had, vulnerability and I just share them,” he says. “What happens is it makes it safe for the other person to be vulnerable because they’re not on the podcast alone being vulnerable.” 

Mastering the art of conversation takes time, that’s why there are thousands of books on the subject. For podcast hosts, it can be tough to draw our guests out of their shell. If you can make your guest feel safe and nurtured, they soon understand that they are in a place of openness and understanding. That’s when the conversational magic happens.

Author: Ronsley Vaz

Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.

He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *