Listen, children, to a story....

Good listeners are rare. Especially when what other people say about themselves is usually boring, unless it concerns your income or your love life. That's probably why good listeners are so admired, much more so than those who tediously demonstrate speed babble.People in business are especially aware of the power in careful listening, including Mark McCormack, columnist in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, who lists four tips for better listening:

1. Don't interrupt. Very annoying to the speaker, but very tempting to us, as we tend to predict what the person is going to say, and how we're going to respond, instead of listening to what the person really does say. I know this takes tremendous self-discipline when the person talks turtle-slow, but good listeners let people finish.

2. Look interested. Try to avoid looking around the room, watching TV, reading "The Far Side" when someone is talking to you. On the other hand, don't keep nodding like a moron and staring like a deer caught in car lights: people can tell you're faking.

3. McCormack advises you to bring along a "designated listener" during important and complicated discussions. They may catch things you don't.

4. Think about a person you really like to talk to. What do they do that makes them so comfortable? Or think about a person you hate to talk to. Why are they so forbidding? Pattern your behavior after your insights.

This having been said, few things in the world are absolute: it's really disconcerting to face a class of head-nodders who never say a word. Ever become exhausted on a date making conversation with a wall? Active listening also suggests we know when to respond and have something intelligent to say. How do you know that? College education.

Copyright 2004 by Ross F. Collins <>