A masterclass in listening by Roy & HG


Photo credit: ABC Australia Story

Last night, ABC TV’s “Australian Story” revealed some of the secrets behind John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver’s 35 year run as satirical sports commentators, Rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson.

It was a great insight into the comic duo and, as a bonus, highlighted two of my favourite memories from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – the gymnastics commentary (remember the “hello boys”?) and the unofficial mascot, Fatso the wombat.

As a negotiation specialist, one aspect of the story really stood out for me.

As explained by comedian and broadcaster, Wendy Harmer, many radio duos build a following by being combative. In contrast, Roy and HG use an improvisation tool called “Yes and …” to progressively build on each other’s ideas. They genuinely listen to each other and accept the other’s premise. John Doyle described it thus: “He’s building a safety net for me; I’m building a safety net from him”.

I loved this part of the program because it reminded me that good negotiators should also listen and react this way.

Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator and author of the hit book “Never split the difference”, describes active listening as “listening with tactical empathy”. Here is a quote from Chris’ blog on the Black Swan site:

Listening with the goal of understanding engages more of your brain and your senses. To truly understand someone, you must listen for dynamic information that will help you see the world from their perspective. In addition to hearing the words your counterpart is saying, try to identify the pictures in their heads, the emotions that are driving their decisions, and the fears that are influencing their perceptions. If you have a sense of how the world looks and feels from their point of view, you can be preemptive with tactical empathy to diminish negatives and win their trust.

With 35 years of listening intently and successfully building on each other’s ideas, I salute Rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson for their enduring example of active listening.

If you are interested, you can catch the program at this link: