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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E8. Human Connection is a Skill with Brian Miller

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.

Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, Francisco first. My guest today is Brian Miller. Brian is a former magician turned author, speaker, coach and consultant on human connection, aesthetic stock. automagically connect with anyone has been viewed over 3 million times worldwide. His book three new people has been recommended by Publishers Weekly, Seth golden. And now by me, just in case, Seth wasn't enough for you. If you like the show, please subscribe and leave us an iTunes review. I know that remembering to do that is harder than solving a Rubik's cube or pulling a rabbit out of the hat. But as Brian here will tell you, there's a lot of magic in just asking, ladies and gentlemen, Brian Miller. Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian Miller 1:47

Hey, thanks so much Francisco. It's really nice to be here. That was that was that was a lovely, I like that you threw in that your recommendation was was added. And in addition to sets, I'll take it I'll take any person's recommendation. Thank you for for buying and reading the book, I really appreciate them.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:04

And I say that because one of the reasons why I said that is because you did something I hadn't done in my book. And then I copied your idea, which was at the end of the book, you thanked people for this for reading and ask them, you know, please write a review, which is, which is pretty obvious. And it was I had published my book earlier this year. And I thought, oh, that sounds like a genius idea. So I went and did the same thing. So I had that sort of fresh in my mind.

Brian Miller 2:30

Yeah, that's that's so funny. It is amazing house. You know, I was simply asking, you know, genuinely asking someone, not at the beginning of your relationship, not not meeting a stranger. It's not like on LinkedIn when you get the cold message from someone you've never met. And you can you just know, as soon as you hit that accept Request button. The next thing is a copy paste pitch that's coming in. I'm just like, I want to keep believing in humanity. So I hit the Accept button. And the next thing that comes in is a copy paste pitch. I'm like, Ah, no, don't do it that way. But someone's already invested in your work that got to the end of the book. If they're at the end of the book, they liked it. Otherwise, they would have abandoned ship. That's the right time to ask.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:10

Now that is true. And it is true and talking about the book. I'm not sure if I should thank you, or curse you for this. Because it seems like you magically implanted a word in my head. And now it keeps coming back often, which is Sunder, huh.

Brian Miller 3:25

What a great word.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:27

Do you mind just explaining what that word is?

Brian Miller 3:29

Sure, of course. So sonder I wish it's a word I had invented. I didn't it started making the rounds on the internet, you know, probably a good 70 years ago, it's become a little bit more common. Now in normal non pandemic times when I was speaking, you know, if with a live audience of 100 200 people, if I'd say, Hey, who's actually heard this word and put my hand up two years ago, no hands would go up. But now, half the room will put their hand up. So it's getting around sonder is the feeling that it's this momentary feeling that when you see another person stranger or not a stranger, that you realise that they've got an entire life of their own that you know nothing about, right that they have hopes and dreams worries and concerns, just as real, just as vivid as yours. And yet you have no access to that emotional data. It's and the first time you you know what that feels like to as soon as I describe it, everyone's like, Oh, yeah, I've had that moment. We go, wow, that's like a, a person with a whole set of experiences and life and stuff. And they're walking around, just like I'm walking around with that noise in the back of your head all day, every day. And I think the recognition of that internal life and every single person you meet and interact with it, once you realise that you you, you can't treat people transactionally anymore. It's really hard to keep living like that.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:51

I think I had relationships like that. Yeah, absolutely.

Brian Miller 4:55

I'm sure so did I. Yeah,

Francisco Mahfuz 4:57

yeah, it's not Yeah, it's just one of those ideas that it's so poignant when you when you consider it really. And it's perhaps one of those things that it's difficult to think about too much. Because it could again, I think it can motivate you to behave towards people in a different way as you propose in your book. But it can also be somewhat paralysing at times, because it's just the wealth of human interaction. Enjoy, you could be experienced, but but will won't realistically, because there's just not enough time. You know, that that one that one query stuck with me?

Brian Miller 5:35

Yeah, that's, that's interesting. It you know, there's, there's two sides to everything, obviously, and, and some some folks, I think, probably the only real criticism of my book, and I don't think it's really a criticism, but some people have, you know, read it and said, you know, got it, if I actually lived really lived according to the philosophy in this book, it would be crushing, it would be too much. And I think, maybe, but maybe not, it's just you've never lived like that, right? It's just a different attitude, it's a different way of being a way of, of, you know, essentially, the philosophy and in the book three new people is, is that you want to live your life with a recognition that every single person you meet and interact with, is worthwhile, that every interaction is meaningful, every person you meet is important. Actually, there's so much of the book that, that that in the back of my head, I don't think I ever referenced Doctor Who in the book, but I'm a huge lifelong Doctor Who nerd ridiculous Hooven. And there's this one episode of knew who were the doctors companion or guests in the episode, you know, basically said, but like, Why me I'm not important. And the doctor said, you know, in in whatever he said, in 1000 years, 2000 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important. And that's the point.

Francisco Mahfuz 6:57

You didn't mention doctor who I don't think you did mention that. You could tell many talk about many things in regards to Batman and Superman. He never did. Now, I actually just had a recorded an episode as someone who I didn't have to dig around a great deal to find out that he was also a nerd in it through the conversation completely off track, because it's been most of it talking about Batman and Wolverine. So I'm not gonna make the same mistake here. No, but but one thing I wanted to tell you is that there is an added layer of pressure in in doing this, this interview with you. But one because my wife likes your TEDx, looking forward to how this one turns out. But also because you talk in the book about all the crap interviews that you've given. So I was trying to put some questions together, like none, I'm sure he's been asked this before. I can't ask this.

Brian Miller 7:54

Well, here's what I'll say to that. You know, you you're not the first person I've ever, ever since I've publicly said stuff like that in my book, and and other things that people say I'm a little nervous, because you've talked about interviewers? No, it's like, and the point is, if you had that thought, like I'm a little nervous, because I want that's it, you did 99% of the work already, the recognition of this is a person and not just someone they're not this is not just a person that I can transactionally use to serve my podcast is a real person that I'm having a real conversation with that, which is like a life philosophy, not just an interviews. That's enough. It's I remember Malcolm Gladwell talking about the number one predictor of parents because that they're going to be good parents is not, it's not what you think it's that they purchased a single book on parenting. Not that they've read it, even if they've never read it, the fact that they went out of their way, put their money down and bought a book on parenting means they're going to be good parents, statistically, because they've already put in the effort to want to be good parents. And so the fact that you even thought to yourself, well, you know, I want to make sure that you did the work, right.

Francisco Mahfuz 9:04

But let me get some learning out of that. So, in your view, what makes a bad or a good interview? Or for that matter, a good or bad conversation?

Brian Miller 9:15

Yeah, that's, you know, that's a great question. I like that you you distinguish between those two, because it's not necessarily that a great interview needs to feel like a great conversation. They are two different things, right conversations are, they don't have the same goal. An interviewer has a goal, you have an audience that's going to be hearing us at the other end of it. And so you're trying to serve what we're doing in the moment, but you're also trying to serve the future audience. And so you do have to play a different game here, right? Like, what we're doing right now is not the way we'd be having a conversation if we were just sitting in a coffee shop and chatting, right? Because there's a bit of call and response here and you're trying to navigate in your head, you know, you want to ask a question that I would be interested in, but also one that the audience would be interested in. Hearing you want to ask about stuff that you care about, but also not only stuff you care about, but also stuff your audience is gonna care about, and stuff I'm interested in talking about, there's this crazy amount. Interviewing is really hard, I run my own podcast, it is so much harder to be a host than to be a guest. In my opinion, it's really hard. So the what are the what makes a good interview? Let's, let's start there. I think what makes a good interview is by and large, that you are present with your guest. That what happens a lot with interviewers is they think, Well, I've got to get in the answers to all these questions. And so they ask the first question, and then I'll give you an answer. Maybe I'll tell you a story that's really meaningful to me. And I'll really bear it out there for you. And then the interviewer will go fantastic. And then they'll just look down at their paper and read the next question. And it's like, did you even listen to anything? I just How could you hear the story? I just told you and not have a follow up question about that. So I think a great interviewer needs to be willing to abandon their script to serve the moment. But at the same time, you need to be willing to steer the conversation if the guest is running off on something that's not relevant to what your audience eventually is going to to be interested in. Right? You need to be able to steer it back. Cal fuss. Minh is one of the great interviewers of our day and listening to him as a masterclass. So that that's, those are some of the things that I think interviews, conversations are a whole other ballgame. I wrote a book about it.

Francisco Mahfuz 11:31

Let me share with you something I lived through for many years. And I think you appreciate this, perhaps more than the average person. When I got into sales. Many years ago, I had this great manager who among many things trained very well. And he really believed that rapport of building rapport was something you could teach, because ever almost everyone we had had in the company at the time. So now you can build rapport, you can build rapport can teach, and it says no, no 100%, you can teach it. And this is the exercise he had us do for a long time. And then I had to do it with my team for years, at least once or twice a week, someone would ask an open question, whatever, whoever's ready, the exercise would respond. And the next person in line had to ask another open question that followed logically from the first one. And then you just kept going around the room until winner made a mistake. You're out. And then you kept going. And I remember in the beginning, it was painful. No one could, you know, it was like, so how long have you been in Connecticut? I've been here for five years. Oh, and in what do you work with Nana, five years. So where were they? Where were you before? How do you find it? What's your favourite part of it? And and after a while, everyone could do it. You could keep going like, Okay, guys, fine. We've done half an hour. Right? We need to move on to. But but it was incredible how much you picked up on? Okay, there's a clue here. There's a clue that that's not me that there is an answer there that I don't know, I should ask. And most people have, I'm not terribly good

Brian Miller 13:02

at it. So that's, that is such a good point. And I know I said this all throughout the book. And I say this in all of my engagements i This is one of my things I need to beat into everybody's heads when I'm teaching this stuff is there's this people have this idea that connection is somehow a gift and not a skill. It is not a gift. It is a skill. There's not a baby born ever who knows how to do what we're doing right now. Right? Who knows how to make a meaningful connection with a stranger with another human. It's, it's not what you're born with. There's no one knows that they came and talk, right? So the point is, you can learn all of these things as a skill. And when you recognise it's a skill, you can practice it, you can hone it, you can make mistakes, you can learn from your mistakes, you can get better and you can do it in every single conversation. And so one of the one of the things that you were just talking about, with the ability to ask a really good follow up question, right? This is a really hard thing to do. It's simple, but it's not easy. And one of the examples I think I gave in the book, I never really know where I've written this stuff. It might have been one of my resources on my website, my ebooks or something but one of the examples I give is if if you're having that you know that really boring conversation with a stranger where you're you know, maybe you just jumped into a cab with and you got someone else and they go, Huh, the weather right you know, that thing? That just white noise we say to each other all day that everyday that doesn't mean anything. They go oh, the weather, right? Instead of going Yeah. And that's it. It's over. You could say, Oh, interesting. What weather Do you prefer? And they go Oh, I like because you'd be surprised not everybody likes it when it's sunny. Some people like it when it's raining. Some people say Oh, I I prefer I really like snow. Oh, why? What about snow? What do you like? And I said, Well, you know, when I grew up in wherever I was getting that, oh, boom, you're having a conversation. You're really meeting someone now. And it's amazing how quickly the right follow up question can move you from strangers and superficial to meaningful full connection. meaningful connection doesn't mean you have to spend three hours talking to every person, you can have a meaningful connection in eight seconds with, you know the person, you know, when you're in line for coffee, that's, that's taking your order, even just to say, they go to take your order, and you can give them your order. And while they're ringing it up in that eight seconds, you can say, hey, it's pretty busy in here today, how's how how's it been? And sometimes, they'll just go, oh, yeah, it's been really busy today. But thanks for asking. And that's it, that recognition of another human as an individual with value and not just the person between you and coffee. That's enough, sometimes,

Francisco Mahfuz 15:39

I guess that for a lot of people. As you said, before, you know, there's someone told you that it would be heartbreaking to live like that, where you meeting all these people, and you have all those experiences. And it is true that a lot of people haven't lived that way. Now, I perhaps I'm slightly more familiar with that feeling. Because I'm not from Barcelona, I lived most of my life in Brazil, then I lived in London for five years, and Madrid. And now here. So I've been out of Brazil now for almost 18 years. In that, you know, not necessarily to the extent where you're meeting three new people every every day. But there are so many people that you know, are going to be transient in your life, you know, that their destiny, or at least their intended destiny is not to stay in whatever place you are now, because they're passing through as most people are passing through. And I guess it's, it's like this myth that people that love is this finite quantity, that you know, you have one child and I could never love anything ever, no didn't have the second and then you love the second as you don't spend it, but at the same time don't doesn't finish but at the same time, it is true that you do have more opportunity for missing people. But you know, you take you take the good with the less good.

Brian Miller 16:56

You know, it's it's that's a really good point about the scarcity mindset. I mean, it's not, you know, connection is not finite. And it's like you said, I feel people have this idea like, well, if I, if I give connection to three, you know, two people or three people, I'll be out of it. No, no, you can, you can just keep giving it right, like connection is a gift. That's the, that's the beauty of being in a world where what Seth would say where most of our work is done in emotional labour, right? I'm not, I'm guessing you're not, you know, working, you know, working with our hands and building things. Now, there are people who are doing that, and I God bless those people. Because I, I've never done anything like that in my life, which is incredibly privileged thing to say, right. But more and more people, especially as automation, robotics take over a lot of that kind of work. More and more people over the next 1020 years, will be working exclusively in emotional labour. And once you're in emotional labour, you can just keep giving, like you can you can give connection over and over and over again. And it doesn't have to drain you, it drains you when you're not good at it. Right? It drains you when like you said, the first time you did that exercise and you try to think of a follow up question. And you can literally get entirely emotionally drained in three seconds, because you can't think of the right follow up question. But as you get good at this, it just becomes natural. And then you actually start gaining energy from being able to give that gift of connection. It's amazing.

Francisco Mahfuz 18:28

And it's probably similar or not too dissimilar to, to creativity, for example, I don't know I, you, you will relate to this. Before you write a book, it's the most daunting thing you've ever done in Aries. I remember the first few pages were horrendous, I thought, but I'm a decent writer. I've been writing speeches for years. Why can I not write this three, four or five intro pages. But then this magical thing happens is that halfway through, it starts getting easier. And at some point, you're like, Okay, I need to figure out a way to stop because otherwise I could write these in make it into the new war and peace. Not all of this is going to be good. I've just like one piece wasn't very good for most of it. But the more content you produce, in a way, the more content you can produce, because perhaps the muscle has just been trained. And I can imagine that connection would be like that is just something you do.

Brian Miller 19:26

Yeah, it is. It's it's so funny about writing a book. It was so daunting. And I gotta tell you having written one. It's still daunting. There's something about writing a book because I've been I was working on my second follow up before we went into pandemic and spam as I'm sure you did, as a speaker spent most of the last three months banding any long term projects in favour of anything that would help short term rebuild my career for the virtual world. Now that I've spent three months rebuilding and I'm good now virtually, I can get back to the long term projects like a book, but starting the second book, it was funny because I had that same daunting feeling. I was like, how am I going to do this? And I was like, No, you did it, you already proved yourself, you could do it. You just have to, you just have to be willing to slog through the difficult beginning part, right? Or the difficult middle. Like, it's like most I think most people love having written a book, very few people love writing a book. I think even really good writers.

Francisco Mahfuz 20:24

There was a there was a line from Tim Obon, who has a very popular TEDx talk. And I love it. He says, I always love the idea of having done Utterback a TED Talk.

Brian Miller 20:36

Right? Yeah. Oh, yeah, the the TEDx was, I mean that exactly what a great, great example, that was easily the most difficult single project I've ever done in my life. spending three years writing a book was easier than the three months leading up to TEDx. I mean, that was because of the because of the the pressure that's put on that platform to this once in a lifetime. Moments opportunity. And I got lucky, too, because I gave mine right before TEDx got a little oversaturated, a little watered down, I gave it at a time when it was still possible to go viral. I think it's, it's, you can do a really good TEDx talk that that gets a lot of views now. But the idea of just popping the way minded. It's hard when there's like 1000 New TEDx talks published every day, or whatever. It was saturated when I gave it, but it was like the last opportunity and I and I got very lucky with them. But the the months leading up to that talk are crazy. And I've been asked so many times since Are you going to do another one? Like, no? No. Like, what what? They're like, why wouldn't you do another one? I'm like, because they would never live up to what end? To what end? What I do. I've done that I did this. If the first time I gave one, it only got 200 views, I would have done another one and try it again. I got 3 million views. i There's nothing I could ever do

Francisco Mahfuz 22:01

that million and 200,000. The last time I checked how,

Unknown Speaker 22:05

how wonderful.

Francisco Mahfuz 22:07

People extra have watched it.

Unknown Speaker 22:09

That's true. We don't you know, it's funny, because

Brian Miller 22:13

once you get to millions, you do start rounding, but you do forget 200,000 people's a lot of people. If I was giving a speech to 200,000 people, I wouldn't even know what was happening. That which you know it. This so funny. I had no intention of talking about this. But that just steered me and it just made me think of something. So many people looking to write a blog, do a podcast, write a book, give a TEDx talk, they get hung up on that number, some people go, my TEDx only got 1000 views, it failed. I'm like, if you were standing on a stage with 1000 people in the audience looking at you and giving you their undivided attention, you would take that very seriously, you could build a career for the rest of your life, from one speech to 1000 people. So you really need to consider that the numbers. They really don't matter as much as you think like three 3.2 million people who see my TEDx, almost none of them have paid me. Almost none of them have hired me, right. But I built a career for the rest of my life on the ink like the point oh, 1% of them that did reach out. So like, you don't need to worry about the numbers. And I feel like you know, you're starting, you know, you launched a podcast just recently, right? It's really easy to go into the analytics and just keep going, oh, there's only 12 people listening? Or maybe you have 1200? Or maybe you have 12,000 I don't know what you have. Everybody thinks their numbers too low, though. Everybody, everybody, you go into the podcasting forums. And and there are people who are going, there's only 10 people listening to my podcast, what do I do? And the next post is there's only 10,000 People listen to my podcast, what do I do? It's like, the numbers, they don't matter that continues.

Francisco Mahfuz 23:53

I'm finding this interesting thing with the podcast. And again, for you, perhaps it's different because yours started, you started the podcast quite a lot after you had already done the TEDx. And so most of that stuff, right? So mine, I'm finding this very interesting thing, which is one I enjoyed. I mean, this is very enjoyable. So if nothing else, I'm meeting a lot of people that either can teach me a lot, or who are the people that are going to be my colleagues and maybe my mentors in this new industry. And that alone to me has value. The second thing is, I mean, from a networking point of view, it's incredible. Because you reach out to people who have no idea who you are. I mean, you said yourself before we started recording, I forgot to include the name of the podcast or a link to it. So you had no idea what this was in, you still said yes. And this has been my experience that people want to have you enjoy having this conversation. So they say yes to things that they wouldn't in other contexts. If I said I would like to have a call and pick your brain for half an hour, you'd probably say no, I would have said no Whatever the podcast it for some reason it has this power. So yes, I mean, I'd love to, you know, a few months down the line have 1000s of people listening to it. But if you know no more than a few 100, which is more or less seems to be the case now are listening to it and enjoying it, I'm getting so much out of it myself, that it doesn't matter. And also, no one knows how many downloads the podcast has.

Brian Miller 25:25

That's That's it. And there's something beautiful about podcasting, which is why it's catching on so much is it's not just that the analytics are hidden, it's it's the fact that because the numbers are hidden, the potential listener isn't influenced by the numbers, right? When you go to YouTube, and you search for something, and you see a video is only got 15 views and the next one is 15,000, you're not going to watch the one with 15 views, even though it could be the best video ever made, it could be exactly what you're looking for, you're never going to give it the time of day. But because you don't get influenced by seeing numbers or downloads or subscribers on a podcast, people are engaging with the ones that just seem like on their face, something they might be interested in. And because it's a podcast, they'll give it 30 minutes or an hour before they make up their mind. Whereas a YouTube video I'm giving it three seconds, right? I mean, if you're lucky, I'm giving you three seconds before I move on to the next one. So the beauty of a podcast for me is one, it's not influenced by the numbers, you get to really make a difference and to it feels personal. You've got someone else's voice literally getting beamed into your ears, right it right into your head. And because you don't see 15,000 A million people that makes you feel like one of a massive group when you're on YouTube watching a video, right? Oh, I'm one of 1000 people, a million people who've watched this video, podcast, it feels like the host is just doing it for me. It's just for me, it's right in my ears. It's very personal. It's very intimate. So you get to make a connection with the listeners in a such an such a deeper way then you deal with I don't know any other form of media, I have a book, I have a blog, I have a weekly blog, I have two YouTube channels I run you know, the podcast is so special for that reason,

Francisco Mahfuz 27:17

something you said before that I think connects to this. This conversation we're having now is you're talking about how the interview is not an interview is not a conversation. So there's a whole bunch of factors that go into that. But something I've been noticing myself and hearing from other people. So I was talking to, to Billy some over who has a podcast called Inside Out. And he interviewed his dad. Right. So he had an almost two hour long conversation with his father. And in that the end of the podcast, both of them say that it was one of the most interesting, meaningful conversations they had. And these are people who have a very good relationship. And what I was left thinking about after that was, yes, it's not a conversation, but isn't to in some ways, what conversations could be, but rarely are

Brian Miller 28:10

that. That's, that's yeah, that's, I hadn't conceived it like that. So that's given me a lot to think about. That's really interesting. And I wonder if that's because you're so aware of providing value to the potential listener, when you're doing it this way, that what you've got in the back of your head is, yeah, I want to have I want to talk to this person. But I want to make sure everything I say every question I asked every point that I make has real value and isn't just filler, right? Because you've got that focus going on. Whereas in a normal conversation, you know, we might have filler moments, if we were sitting in a coffee shop, we'd both take our phones out at some point and then come back to the conversation or kind of drift off a little bit. And you could be like, Oh, check out that hat that person's wearing, like stuff that just doesn't matter, right. But here we have to stay focused. Because it's not just for us. It's for other people value as well. And I wonder if that level of focus is what makes because I agree there are so many podcast conversations I've had that have been the best conversations I've ever had in my life. And some of them with people I've known for 1020 years, and I've known really well. And then we'll have a podcast. It's just like you said, have a podcast conversation and go, I learned more about this person I've known for 20 years in one hour than I have in all the years. I've known them talking to them. It's amazing.

Francisco Mahfuz 29:34

And what I thought about this was yes, I think the focus of the audience is one of them because it forces you to have a better conversation. You don't want to dominate the conversation. You want to pick up on things that a person has said that that should be followed. But I also think as well as this commitment that you just don't have in real life and saying okay, Brian, you and I are going to sit down here and for you know 40 minutes to an hour. We are going to talk about this things that we know we do, and we know are important to each other. But we never talk about it because we talk about, you know, we talk about sports, or we talk about the news or we talk about nothing in particular over a drink, which is what how most friends interact. But I have friends that are very interesting things. And I had never had a conversation with them. about it. I have a friend who, who I started with, and he later became a historian. So I interviewed him on the podcast about you know, where storytelling meets history. It was a great conversation. And I have another friend coming on to talk about how storytelling in advertising, which has been his career. I never talked to him about that. Like, never.

Brian Miller 30:41

Huh? Yeah, that that. Yeah, you're right. There's a there's kind of a contract and a commitment that comes with it. It's reminded me of something. I had the career honour just recently of having Julian treasurer on my podcast, who is just, you know, a TED royalty, right? 80 million views. He's got one of the most popular TED Talks ever and proper Ted, not TEDx, but proper is how to

Francisco Mahfuz 31:05

talk so people with listeners

Brian Miller 31:06

exactly exactly how to speak so people will listen and Yeah, exactly. And so I got to sit down with Julian for an hour and I haven't been Live worship this guy for so long. You have to put away that worship to to have a real conversation. You can't fan over someone. Right?

Francisco Mahfuz 31:21

As I'm doing right now.

Brian Miller 31:22

Haha. Of course, of course, I could see it, I could see that your mouth.

Francisco Mahfuz 31:27

3 million I have to do so.

Brian Miller 31:30

You're probably one of those 200,000 I discounted a few minutes. Yes. Yeah. So he he was he and I were talking about having difficult conversations in your real life and how to do that, especially if you're maybe an introvert, that has a more difficult time saying to someone you know, getting your word in or getting your your point across. And he he made the suggestion, which was one of my favourite suggestions. He said, you can ask somebody for five minutes of their time, you can say to someone who's you can never get your word and you can't get your point across you say, Listen, there's something that is really important to me that I can talk about with you. I just need five minutes of your time. Can I get five minutes of your time when it's convenient for you? And almost everybody says yes. How could you not say yes to five minutes, it's only five minutes. But he said, what you've got now is a contract. When you sit down to have that five minutes, they've agreed to five minutes. And that's very reasonable. So you've got five minutes of their undivided attention that they've agreed to listen to you, or have this conversation with you. And I think that's why it reminded me of what you were just saying is when you've got that command, like we've committed to an hour, like I know, we're talking for an hour. So if if I decide 20 minutes in that my head's not really here, it's gonna be a long, 40 minutes after that, right? Because I've already agreed to do it. So I may as well get invested. So I think there's really something to that.

Francisco Mahfuz 32:58

There is something that I've heard, I think was from Sam Harris when he was talking about meditation, and he said that nothing is boring. You just not paying enough attention.

Unknown Speaker 33:09

Haha. That's such a good quote. Yeah, yeah. So good.

Francisco Mahfuz 33:13

And I remember that, I think was might have been that same sales manager that had the the interesting exercise, where he would play as an audio clip, and it says, Okay, listen to that, okay, fine. Now, I want to play to you again, and there's something you need to get from that there's something very important the person's going to say, and they need to find out what it is and write it down. In the before he plays, everybody leans in, in kind of puts us put their head down to listen with attention. And the three minutes just feel completely different than when you were and when it's kinda Yeah, sure, yeah. Sounds interesting. It's just a commitment, you say, I will be be present here. And then you have to pay attention and it changes your your experience of what's going on.

Brian Miller 33:59

And this This is why one of the fundamental techniques that I teach in my communication workshops for organisations and everything is reflective listening, this is another one of those. And this to you, this will be like, obviously, because like, you know, this world, but it's amazing. It's not obvious to almost anybody I see the light bulb happened when I teach reflective listening, which has just been around for so long. But essentially, reflective listening, is the ability to paraphrase back to someone what they've just said, with your words, from their point of view, your words, their point of view. So the key to this is that you don't get to insert your opinion, your perspective, your ideas, your follow up into it, that they finish talking, and they finish making their point and then you say, it sounds like what you're saying is, it seems to me like what you're saying is and then you give a quick summary of what they just said in your words, but from their personal effective. And the reason this is so crucial in conversations is one, it implicitly tells the person that you are completely focused on what they're saying that you are truly present and engaged. Because you can't do it. If you're not, you can't do it. You know what it sounds like when someone's not really listening to you, right? You finish making your point, you've said something that's really meaningful to you, or whatever you stop. And then you can see the person's brain registers silence, they realise, you've stopped talking, and they kind of their eyes click in and they're like, yeah, and you're like, oh, this person's not listening to a word I'm saying, right. And it instantly disconnects you it breaks everything, right, it puts a wall up. And so by doing reflective listening, you really, implicitly without saying anything, really, you tell the person you're really engaged. And the second major reason that I teach this is, if you're having a disagreement, a debate, an argument, it is so crucial to show the person that you've understood what they said before you counterpoint, because the most common thing that happens in arguments and debates is that there's a misunderstanding, right at the beginning, you're using the same term in different ways. You've got different assumptions going in, but neither of you clarified it, and you get all the way to the end of the debate, you're heated, you're angry, and you realise you've actually been agreeing the whole darn time, because you didn't check. Now, here's the thing, when you get to that moment, and you realise you've been agreeing the whole time, all that negative energy, all the anger, all the all the argument, it doesn't just go away, you've got that built up. Now, even if you intellectually understand you've been agreeing the whole time, and like cracks in a sidewalk, they do build up, and they can erode even the strongest relationships. So by doing reflective listening, it's really, really crucial. You make people feel understood, feel heard, feel valued. And you give yourself the opportunity to recognise that you don't actually understand their point, because you might say, so what you're saying is, or what I hear you saying is blah, blah, blah, and they might go, oh, no, no, that's, that's not what I'm saying at all. And this is beautiful, because now they have a chance to make themselves understood. Oh, no, no, what I'm trying to say is, and they get to try again, and now you've reached understanding, and I say this all the time, connection is not about agreement. Connection is about understanding.

Francisco Mahfuz 37:31

You said something, I think in the book, and you're giving this example about what happens when you stop speaking, and then the brain registers silence. And I think in the book, you mentioned something with regards to eye contact, I think what you said was, you were speaking and then at some point, your eye, your eyes, look towards the person and you realise the person is not looking at you. And then you figured out you're not being listened to. And this is something that was going through my head right now, as you were speaking, because we're now in this weird situation where you're speaking, if I want to look like I'm looking at you, I need to look at the camera. So I'm not looking at your face. And this is all very awkward. So I find it easier to look at the camera when I'm talking. I find it very strange to look at the camera while I'm listening to you. So I wanted to ask you, with all this going on, and with online, having become you know, pretty much all we have at the moment. What are some basic things that you are either doing yourself or telling people to do that help bridge that that gap in connection over video conferences, which seems to be all we do nowadays?

Brian Miller 38:39

This is so perceptive like and it just It just underscores the fact that you you know, you're a professional communicator, you're a speaker and so you think about things like this. This is exactly what first you said, what you're doing or what you're teaching everything I teach I do. So I only teach things that I do. You've noticed the entire time we've been having a conversation. It's felt like I've been looking right at you. I have been looking at I don't even know what you look like I've been looking at the camera the years Brian. I mean, come on. I'm looking now you have some glorious hair. It's wonderful. This is this is locked on hair. You know but But it worked for you my lockdown hair if I took out my ponytail right now I look like I'm playing all those guitars you see in the background and 80s Hair Metal bands like I used to when I was younger.

Francisco Mahfuz 39:28

If you look up if you're looking at the podcast, if the after we're done, you'll find that this is the best thing that's happened to me with a lockdown is I always had my hair super short. It grew out into this. And I had this idea of having a friend who was a great illustrator to do an illustration of me on stage with kind of a superhero theme which is kind of my thing. And then this hair helped a lot so the cover of the podcast is me doing like this with this hair. So you know go lockdown. Oh Hello, sorry, you were saying yes, you've been looking at me the whole time.

Brian Miller 40:02

Yeah. So so this is, like I said, very perceptive that this is the most difficult thing to do when it comes to communication in the virtual world, which is eye contact, it is completely the inverse, not the opposite. But the inverse of the real world, which is, in the real world, as a listener, you want to be looking at, you want to be locked eyes with the speaker, because as a speaker, we kind of, you know, we look around the room, we look up to the left, we go to the right, we try to think about what we're saying, but like you said, once in a while, we check back in with the person we're speaking to, and in that split second, if they the person we're speaking to is locked eyes with us. And that split second, there's so much confidence in that moment, you feel like this person cares about what I'm saying, I can keep going, I'm on a roll, right. And if they're not, you feel disconnected, immediately you feel unsure of yourself, maybe they are not interested in what I'm saying. So in the virtual world, the problem is, as you noted, the screen where the person is that you want to look at, and the camera where they actually are seeing you from or two different places. And so the key is, as a listener, in order to make the person that we're speaking with that speaking with us feel like we're locked eyes with them, we actually have to look at the camera. And if you look at the camera, if you just burn the camera while they're talking to you, you're missing out on all the cues, the visual cues that you normally pick up on when someone's talking, right. So the key to connection in the virtual world is that we need to sacrifice a little bit of our ability to pick up on those visual cues in order to make the other people feel like we're listening like we're engaged. And so as a listener, you need to lock eyes with the lens, not the screen is very disorienting when you start doing it. But like any skill, you can practice it, you can get more comfortable with it. I've been doing video conferencing for years and years, I was one of those people on Zoom five years ago, before the whole world discovered zoom, you know, two months ago. So I've been doing this a long time. But at the beginning, it's very awkward. As a speaker, it's a little bit easier, you can look at the lens, but you can still look around the room, you can check the screen, you can come back. But for me like you if I look at the screen like you right now, if you're looking at the camera, when I check the screen, it really feels like you're listening to me. Even though intellectually, when I see that you're looking at the screen, I know you're looking at me, but your brain just doesn't register it. It's built into us that if those eyes aren't on me on my eyes, that they're not really looking at me. So it's it's disorienting,

Francisco Mahfuz 42:45

I'm trying to take my eyes off of you, but you're magnetic, it's very difficult. Competition, something something that I have been thinking about with regards to videoconferencing, having become the new kind of a new thing. And I think it's, it's a bit of a problem as well, because we are creating an obstacle sometimes where there wasn't one. So I fully get the zoom or whatever we're using for a group of people. But, you know, I was in sales for a long time. And I did everything over the phone. You know, I have clients and I always spoke to them over the phone. And I don't have I never had a problem with picking up emotional cues through someone's voice. I mean, you get trained to do it. You know, I people say Oh, but it's difficult to to sell if you're not in person. No, you just have your conversations after get into the conversation. And it's something that now, I think people are too focused on what the camera is showing you in you forgot to pick up on people's voices, which again, wealth of information coming from that.

Brian Miller 43:49

It's a really good point, I think people have completely forgotten about the phone as a tool in the last few months. Because everyone gets just got so excited about video conferencing, it was really funny to see the entire world get excited about a technology that's been around for like 20 years. Like just discovered it which is okay, I get it right. Most people aren't in the world like you and I are where we need to connect with clients internationally and all this stuff but, but what's interesting is I I think that's a really good point, when you're on a video chat, you've got a computer screen or something in front of you, which means the amount of potential distractions is insane. And I think the biggest distraction is looking at yourself. I think people get distracted looking at how they look like on the screen right? We're worried that How's my hair right now? Do I have a pimple on my face? Is that is the lighting weird? Am I the and they just completely disconnect whereas on the phone? You it's like the podcast, it's just a voice in your ear. You're having a really intimate moment with one person and you've got to focus. Because if you're not really listening, there's nothing else there. Right? It's like on a video chat. If you're not really listening, at least you kind of visually see what's going on. So your brain thinks it's okay to kind of tune out a little bit. But you can't do that on the phone because there's nothing else you're stuck. So recently I've had, I've had some clients that after three months of, you know, setting up zoom calls, one of them the other day said, Do you want to do a zoom? I said, No, I don't I just call me just call me like we used to just call it, it's fine. We'll be in and out of the conversation in 10 minutes, instead of feeling doing this dance of visual aesthetics. And are you muted? Oh, no, you're not muted. Wait, maybe it's my mic. May you know this nonsense that bogs down everything. Having said that, I think video conferencing is a magnificent tool, especially for group calls, right? If you've ever done a group conference call very difficult on the phone alone. You can't tell who's talking and whatever. So a lot of good reason for that. I think video conferencing made the ability to stay in touch with friends and family, the personal side of interaction, really powerful. During during this really weird, you know, unpress I'm so tired that we're unprecedented. But you know, this word, this this, this unprecedented? Hope you're safe. And well, you know, I hanging in there, you know, I'm getting a little tired of the same three things we've all been saying for three months,

Francisco Mahfuz 46:16

I have said or typed the Sunni terrorists has kept me sane. Hundreds of times.

Unknown Speaker 46:24

Yeah, yeah. How are you doing hanging in there?

Francisco Mahfuz 46:29

I'm gonna I'm gonna shift gears because I realised that time is coming to an end. And this is, you know, supposedly a podcast about stories. And one thing I had on my list of questions that I tried consult as little as possible throughout the conversation was to do with with your storytelling, because I read in spite of all the magic, the best part of the TEDx for me is the story by far. Ed's story, that's great and told incredibly well, and there's a lot more of that in the book. So my question to you is, is your story? How deliberate is your storytelling?

Brian Miller 47:03

Wow, what a great question. That wasn't the question I was expecting Norwich, I've been asked actually what I was expecting you to ask me, I was expecting you to ask me to tell one of the three or four kind of more popular stories that I tell all the time, which is Well, again, which is fun, I get why interview is asked that their audience hasn't heard of before I get it. But having said that, yet. Yeah. So so far, I just derailed myself. So the question was, how deliberate? Yes, how deliberate is the storytelling, it is meticulous, it's funny, because like the day of the TEDx talk, which I just had the five year anniversary of that talk, just a few days ago, my Facebook memories popped up. And I was like, wow, what is changed in five years? That day, when the conference was over, all the other speakers, eight or nine other speakers came up to me? And they said, this was the day of and they said, Did you like, Did you rehearse that? And I remember looking at them going, did you not? You know, like, yeah, I've rehearsed it over 200 times over three months. I mean, like, and you're a speaker, you get that you say that to the average person? And they're like, What, are you nuts? No, I just put a few bullet points the day before I went up there, and I'm gonna speak from the heart. This is the biggest.

Francisco Mahfuz 48:20

I'm sorry, your heart doesn't talk very well.

Brian Miller 48:23

Exactly. Exactly. It's like he fails, but he doesn't talk. That's exactly it feels but it doesn't talk yet. talk from the heart when you're having a meet a personal conversation. But this is professional, right? I'm, I'm trying, I'm giving us I've got an audience people in front of me potentially on YouTube, I'm reading a book or a blog or a speech. I've got people that I'm there for this isn't just for fun, right? So yeah, my storytelling is meticulous, I've been studying it for a long time, I have a philosophy degree, I actually abandoned a PhD in philosophy to pursue magic as a living. So at some point decided card tricks were a more effective career path. And then

Francisco Mahfuz 49:03

a book about

Brian Miller 49:06

the philosophy of philosophy. I actually have a book called that in the other room. So in philosophy, I mean, essentially, philosophy is storytelling, right? Because philosophy is not science. They don't, you can't physically empirically check your data, check the world. So they use, you know, logic to you know, philosophers use logic to examine questions. And we use thought experiments, right thought experiments where you take a situation and you go, Okay, let me devise some insane scenario. And what would happen if I took this situation and smashed it into this insane scenario? What would logically end up and then you do that with a bunch of insane scenarios and you start to get a sense of how you feel about this thing and make arguments about it? Well, essentially, what you learn in philosophy, what you learn in magic is the person who tells the best story wins. This is history, too. I mean, this is the story. I mean, this is how history unfold. Plato

Francisco Mahfuz 50:00

supposedly said something for Storytellers for the role. Well,

Brian Miller 50:05

exactly. And it is is just as true. Now it's true in politics, we've seen the best storytelling, not a good story doesn't mean it's a good story, right? We've seen very, really horrible stories of the last few years when because they were better told, it's happening right now in America. And I don't want to go into the politics of this. I want to talk about the storytelling of it just three days ago in America, and this by the time this comes out, it'll probably be forgotten about but the hashtag.

Francisco Mahfuz 50:31

Hopefully those forgotten about yeah,

Brian Miller 50:35

I hope you're right. I used to be more optimistic. So I hope you're right. But hashtag defund the police has started trending in America. And the problem is that that's not what the people mean, defund the police. What they really mean is no police forces are overtaxed. They've got way too many responsibilities and not enough money to accomplish that. Let's take the responsibility away from the police that for stuff they don't need to be doing. Let's take those money and resources and move it back into the communities where we can serve people better. That's what they mean, defund the police is a bad story, that story is not going to win. The story that's going to win, unfortunately, is the story of No, we need to make sure there's cops that can do their jobs. It's like, yeah, that's not what the argument was. But bad storytelling is a real problem. So get off my soapbox there for a moment. But like, it's not just giving TEDx talks about doing magic tricks for blind people like this stuff matters. Like it really, really matters. So my storytelling is very deliberate. But anybody can do this. There's a lot of people that think nothing really interesting has happened to me, I haven't had an exciting life, I don't have stories that I could tell nonsense, you've just never sat down and have the courage to put your stories on paper, a lot of people are afraid to confront their own stories, to confront their own lives. And to mine it for all the things every person is important, we'd started the conversation with that. And if you really sit down and look at your life, and write down all the things that happened to you that were meaningful to you, I guarantee you, most of those things will be meaningful to a lot of other people who have been through similar situations. So storytelling is important.

Francisco Mahfuz 52:18

Just before we sat down to record this, I recorded a little video that's going to be out on LinkedIn tomorrow, tomorrow, being a day after the podcast is recorded on the 30th. Where I call it the problem of superheroes, and how I'm a nerd, I love them. But they help put this idea in people's heads that stories are this big thing. And it's big adventures and big obstacles, and not the little things in your life, you know, the problems that make you learn stuff. And that is what start the stories we need to tell, of course, that the great stories, the grand stories are important, and they have their place. But the ones that have this idea, haven't developed this idea yet, but I have this feeling that the stories that build up or wisdom, as individuals and as a society are not the big ones, because we clearly know learn very little from history. So it's the little ones that get, you know, brick by brick put on top of each other. And that becomes the the common sense or the wisdom of our times is just all these little stories.

Brian Miller 53:25

I think you should keep developing that because I think that you're right, I think you're right on with that that that point is is really well taken lately to that we clearly don't learn from the big monumental events, the things that you learned about all your, all your time in school, all the stuff in the history books, clearly we're repeating right history repeats itself, we make the same big mistakes over and over and over again. But as individuals, we, you know, like my, my life hasn't been shaped by the big stories, like you know, like I'm half Jewish, half my family's 100% Jewish is sounds crazy to say but my life wasn't shaped by the Holocaust it like it's a story I grew up with. And it's a really important one and I will fight for and speak out for rights and equality and all that stuff. Because I grew up with that, like the culture means something to me. But the actual changes in my life as as a Jewish or half Jewish person came from seeing small instances of anti semitism, right, that one to one, the moments the daily stuff, the weird things people say and you just go Wait, what you know, those are the moments actually matter that giant atrocity while it was obviously monumentally important and an incredibly important to learn about that isn't the thing that shaped my daily life. It's the little stuff that shaped my life, and it's the little stuff that means I get to choose every day, how I want to show up in the world. And I choose to show up with kindness and empathy and generosity with a recognition Sondra like we talked about that every person we meet Has has a life of their own that's valuable, even if I don't agree with them.

Francisco Mahfuz 55:05

I think I think we can finish with that. But let me just ask, Where can people find you?

Brian Miller 55:11

Sure. So Brian Miller is my main website. But to be honest, most people would probably want to go straight to my blog. It's human connection dot blog. So it's really easy human connection dot blog. I publish weekly there, you can toss your email and get all the cool free resources and get in that you see my podcasts and everything else from from them. So human connection dot blog is probably the right place.

Francisco Mahfuz 55:35

Perfect. Brian, it's been a it's been a pleasure. It was a very different interview than the one I had planned. Which I think is a is a plus in your book.

Brian Miller 55:46

I had I had a great time. Yeah, I hope we gave we gave something I know we didn't really attack storytelling directly for most of it, but, but honestly, everything is storytelling.

Francisco Mahfuz 55:58

Alright everybody, thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time,

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