MR JOHN Scully, the former chief executive officer of Apple Computer, was asked by a reporter: "If you could change your title from chief executive officer, what would you change it to?"

He replied: "Chief listener."

Management guru Tom Peters says: "The highest compliment you can pay a customer is to listen."

Someone once told me: "Most of us are compulsive talkers and selective listeners. We need to be compulsive listeners and selective talkers."

We all know that listening is important. But if we know it is so important, why don't we listen better?

Often, we take others in our life for granted. We think we know what they are going to say.

For example, consider the people you live with - your partner, your parents or your children. How well do you listen to them?

Now remember when you were first dating that special person in your life.

I recall when I first dated my husband, I hung on his every word. He was fascinating. He was so intelligent. He knew so much. He was enthralling.

Do you remember such a time? Do you listen the same way now?

I work on it every day so I won't take him for granted and tune him out.

Listening well means showing people you are listening. In fact, you can tell when someone is listening.

Remember what your parents always said: "Look at me when I'm talking to you."

Your body language shows your listening level.

However, some people are good at masking their lack of interest. They make eye contact, nod and say "uh huh" even though they are not really listening.

Another reason people don't listen well is because of biases and prejudices.

I am not proud to admit that I have allowed biases to get in the way of listening at times.

I became acutely aware of this one day, when my then 15-year-old stepson, Alex, came home with an orange Mohawk haircut.

When he spoke, I worked hard to focus on his face and ignore the distraction of the orange spikes on his head.

I brought my attention back to his face, tried to listen, and was distracted again by his skeleton earring.

I realised that I had an opinion about young men who have punk haircuts living in my house.

It didn't bother me that his friends had green, purple and bright red hair. It didn't even bother me that his girlfriend had a matching haircut!

But it did bother me that this young man, living in my house, did. I saw a prejudice that I hadn't seen before.

We all have prejudices. We may not like someone's clothes, make up, speech patterns or haircut. Yet we need to strive to listen to them fully.

Listening is a critical skill for success. It is not an easy skill to acquire but we can all try to listen better.

I hope you see the value in becoming the chief listener in your life.