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How to Be a Good Listener


Curiously enough, one of the best means of talking is not to talk.

The person who monopolizes all the time and hardly allows the other person to say a word is a bad talker.

Good talking always presupposes two parts,

1. A speaker.

2. A listener.

It also presupposes a constant alternation of speaking and listening.

If you speak all, or most, of the time, you thereby express yourself, but under a disadvantage. You will not have heard the responses that should have been given, and you will not be fully informed of the state of mind of the other person. You may speak to your own disadvantage.

In the "Sherlock Holmes" stories Conan Doyle very acutely makes the famous detective a good listener. Watson, who has less logical ability, is always interrupting, or ready for action before all the facts have been presented. Sherlock Holmes asks quick questions, listens, and gives his visitors full sway.

Many dramatic moments in plays have been built on this sort of speech.

1. In every social or business talk, give your friend or associate an opportunity for self-expression.

2. In general, practise the habit of listening, which is a form of compliment that is always appreciated.

3. At times make your speech effective by restricting it to almost no speech at all.

4. On such occasions give your associate full play, as a good fisherman gives play to a fish but at no moment looses him from the hook. Let him express himself freely and fully while you listen.

Such a method will be as effective for you as it is for the fisherman.

A popular story is founded on the conception that "Everybody's Lonesome." Another might be founded on the idea that "Everybody likes to be heard."

5. Practise the art of being a sympathetic listener.


1. You wish to sell a life insurance policy to a man with whom you are not well acquainted. How will it aid you to sell the policy if you give him opportunity to speak fully and often?

2. You have an important business matter to lay before an influential man, and you have little time at your disposal. You are tempted to do all the talking in order to complete the matter in the limited time. Why will it be to your advantage to give him full time for speech?

3. A friend begins to reminisce. How will it affect your relations with him if you speak very little?


How to Gain the Power of Silence


Some of the world's most powerful men have been noted for silence.

They have communed with their own souls and have lived, as it were, in a great silence. And yet they have done great things, and have said great things.

As a result, the world has come to think that a silent man is a man of power.

You need not go back to the career of William the Silent, the great Dutch patriot, one of the strongest and most powerful men who ever lived, or even to the lives of General Grant and General Lee, both of whom were men of silence.

Look around you at men of today with whom you associate. You see many who chatter idly and frivolously, saying nothing with much seriousness, and often, with thoughtless words, saying something harmful.

It was such a person whom Shakespeare ridiculed when, in "The Merchant of Venice," he said "Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice."

No one admires such a person. Such a one is amusing but not substantial.

On the other hand, you see a few of your associates who are "men of silence." Like Colonel House, they say little but they think much. Their opinions are worth knowing. When they do speak they are likely to speak wisely.

In college I knew a thin, red-haired youth who maintained an almost unbroken silence during four years. When called upon he spoke well and to the point, but otherwise was silent. He became a lawyer—and was silent. They made him mayor of Northampton, Mass. He still was remarkably silent. They sent him to the Massachusetts Legislature. Silent on all ordinary times, he spoke wonderfully well when necessary. They sent him to the State Senate. He became President of the Senate, then Lieutenant Governor, and finally Governor, of Massachusetts, and now he is mentioned for the Presidency. Calvin Coolidge is a silent man—yes, but one of his short orations on the war has been sent broadcast through the land. By never uttering a foolish, trivial word he saves himself from censure. In the silence he gathers strength, so that when he does speak all are glad to hear.

You may not make silent people your boon companions for gay larks and excursions, but you go to them for advice in your difficulties.

Their power over men comes largely from concentration.

1. Do not waste energy in idle, flippant speech.

2. Do not form habits of speaking thoughtlessly.

3. Make silence lead to good judgment.

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