Listening may be the least practiced and most important skill you can master.
I was a salesman in my past life. And in competing with five of the largest companies in a certain field, it was my turn to give my presentation. When I went up to the podium to present, my client started to attack, and made an accusation of my company and myself.
Rather than defend myself, I immediately grabbed a pen and paper, and I started asking him what he was upset about, what he felt, and how it affected him. For the next 35 minutes, I took notes. And I listened. And I listened very carefully to everything he had to say. He went on and on, and he made it clear that I had no chance of winning this deal, that I was going to be leaving the room as soon as he finished, and never to make my entrance again with this company.
Instead of just packing up and leaving, I listened, and I wrote down his notes, and I asked him further questions about what he felt, and what he wanted me to understand and learn, so I could take it back to my company.
At the end, he said to me, “Ok there’s the door, it’s time to go, we’re not using you.”
As I was ready to leave, I turned around again, and asked him one more question, and as I listened to him go on for another ten minutes, when he was finished, and I was ready to leave, he said, “You know something? You listened to me so well, I’d like to hear your presentation.” I made my presentation and I won the deal.
I learned that day that it is more important to listen than to think about what you want to say to someone.