Dale Carnegie was once invited to a bridge party. He didn’t actually play bridge, however, and ended up conversing with a lady there who also didn’t partake in the game. The lady had discovered that Carnegie had once been Lowell Thomas’ manager before he went on the radio, and that he had traveled in Europe a great deal while helping Thomas prepare the illustrated travel talks he was then delivering.
The lady asked Carnegie to tell her about all the wonderful places he had visited and the sights he had seen. As the two sat down on the couch to talk, the lady remarked that she and her husband had recently returned from a trip to Africa.
“Africa!” Carnegie exclaimed. “How interesting! I always wanted to see Africa, but I never got there except for a twenty-four hour stay once in Algiers.” Then he went on to ask the lady about visiting big-game country and other sights she had seen there.
The lady talked about Africa for the next forty-five minutes, never again asking Carnegie about where he had been or what he had seen. In Carnegie’s words, “All she wanted was an interested listener, so she could expand her ego and tell about where she had been.”
The lesson to be learned here is: Don’t underestimate the power of a sympathetic ear. Even Abraham Lincoln, during the darkest hours of the Civil War, reached out to an old friend in Springfield, Illinois, to come to Washington to discuss problems with him. Lincoln talked for hours about the advisability of issuing a proclamation freeing all the slaves. Finally, Lincoln shook hands with his old neighbor, said good night, and sent him back to Illinois without even asking for his opinion.
All Lincoln had wanted—and needed—was a friendly, sympathetic listener to whom he could unburden himself. That’s really all any of us want when we are in trouble. And that is frequently all the irritated customer, dissatisfied employee, or the hurt friend wants as well.
Here are some more tips on developing good listening skills from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training:
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