What I wanted was a temporary line of credit from a bank where I've been a steady, uncomplaining, service-fee-paying, sporadically saving, non-check-bouncing customer for seven years.
The young woman who answered the phone said, "Oh, yes. Sure. Of course," enough times to give the impression that she was hanging onto every word.
She was not.
The next day she called with news that my "loan" had been approved, adding, "You can come and get your money any time. On the other hand, interest begins accruing now."
"But I thought interest only accrued if I actually used the line of credit," said I.
"Right. That's right. You wanted a line of credit, didn't you? Now I remember our conversation. Of course. You can just write checks from your checking account and if you overdraw, you'll be covered up to your limit."
"But I thought you issued separate checks for lines of credit."
"Right. You want a line of credit. I was thinking you wanted a cash reserve on your checking account. OK. We'll set that up for you right away. The interest rate will be 18 percent and there's a once-a-year fee of $35."
"A once-a-year fee? Eighteen percent interest? For a line of credit? What are you talking about?"
"Right. There's no fee. You wanted a line of credit, not a credit card."
This is a young, usually courteous, seemingly eager-to-please employee who's never going to go anywhere until she learns to listen.
Here are some of the traits of good listeners:
They give people their undivided attention. They don't spend their time pretending to listen.
Good listeners are active listeners. They sit forward. They take notes if it's appropriate and nod occasionally to let the other person know she's being heard.
Good listeners don't squirm, fidget, rustle papers or drum their fingers while someone else is talking. They find a comfortable position, then give 100 percent of their attention to the person who's speaking.
Good listeners never interrupt and often let the silence fall when someone finishes talking. They allow themselves time to digest what's been said before responding, and give the other person time to say more about it -- or edit what's already been said.
Finally, good listeners aren't afraid to ask questions until they're sure that they've understood every word of what's been said to them.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.