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All Ears?

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

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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