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Chapter 8. Listen Generously > Exercise Your Ears

Exercise Your Ears

Writer Fran Lebowitz quips, "The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting." Unfortunately, many people act that way in conversations—they wait impatiently instead of listening. To build relationships, develop your ability to listen. Listening is the quiet side of networking. A talk radio station in Washington, D.C., had as its slogan, "You've got to listen to talk." All too often, however, people think that listening is merely not talking. Not so. There are ways to improve your listening skills and to make these skills a vital part of your networking conversations.

Listening is work. Don't think of it as a passive activity in which you just nod every once in a while as you wait for your turn to talk. Listening is active. To be a good listener, you need to give your undivided attention and focus. You speak at a rate of about 150 words a minute. But you can think at more than 800 words a minute. That's one reason why you must train yourself to pay attention rather than allow your mind to wander off on tangents. Another challenge is that networking is often noisy. You'll probably be trying to listen in a room in which lots of other lively conversations are going on.


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