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My brother, Barnes, and I were in a canoe, drifting down scenic New River in Virginia, fishing for small mouth bass and catching very few. The lack of activity caused our conversation to move from fishing to a variety of other topics. Barnes, a very successful biologist/salesman before his retirement, is nine years younger than I and retired five years before I did, and had customers throughout the world. As we rounded a bend in the river, a small “for sale” sign prompted me to ask, “What is the secret to success as a salesman?”. Barnes’ immediate reply surprised me. Without any hesitation, he said “listening”, and then explained to me why true listening is very hard to accomplish.
People, especially educated people, don’t listen very well because they don’t listen very long. In any conversation among people from Western Nations, the person “listening” only listens until something that is said creates an opportunity for a response. Once that opportunity is created, the “listener” is...