Listen > Talk
My mentors taught me that the ability to listen is more important than the ability to speak.
The ability to ask questions is more important than knowing the answers. This is not being taught anywhere.
When I was a kid, we used to argue a lot. We were interrupting, crushing, and finding fault with words in order to appear cool. Being the coolest person in the room was far more important than closing a deal.
Many people are still doing so.
When I started working with foreign clients, I discovered that this was not the case in other cultures. The majority of the people were friendly and helpful. The goal was to strike a deal, not to appear cool.
As a result, I began to learn how to listen. According to what I've learned, there are three levels to it.
Level 1: Pay attention to what is said
This is something that most people are capable of. You allow the other person to speak freely, but you're not really listening because you're already planning your response. It's still more important for you to speak up than listen. It's not rough, but it's ineffective.
Level 2: Listen to hear
You mentioned getting something on this level. You're listening in order to strike a deal. Or to solve a problem. Or to get closer on the first date. To be honest, the person himself isn't as important on this level as the information he's delivering or its function. You're already a good negotiator at this level.
Level 3: Listen in order to comprehend
On this level, you understand not only the words, but also the person behind them. You look for context and motives. You hear everything, but you don't judge the meaning of words in the moment. Don't let yourself react automatically. And ask good questions.
This takes a lot of patience. For example, the person uses foul language with you, but you recognize it as a cry for help. Or when a child comes to you with a problem he can't solve, but instead of offering a solution, you ask supportive questions that encourage him to figure it out for himself and grow in the process.
This level necessitates deliberate practice. However, it creates magic in terms of deep relationships.
I'm still not a pro at it, but I'm working on it all the time. I don't think there will ever be a time when someone develops it completely.