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All Ears?

In business and in life, learning to listen is one of the most important skills you can develop.

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This story appears in the April 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You never know when you're going to meet someone who will turn out to be a major influence in your life. It could be someone sitting next to you on an airplane or someone you happen to meet at a party at your next-door neighbor's. For me, it all began at a business meeting when I met Tony Wainwright, chairman of a $2.5 billion corporation, author, playwright, incredible philanthropist and one of the world's foremost salespeople. He became my greatest mentor and one of my best friends.

Tony passed away not long ago. I miss him every day. Shortly after he died, I began to wonder: What set him apart from the other people who tried to do what he did but failed? As I thought about Tony's life-not just his life, but about everything he did-I realized that what made him great was his uncanny ability to listen. He listened-truly listened-to everyone he met. I'd like to pass on a few of his secrets for listening to you:

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