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Recently I was part of a Zoom with Torrens University on the subject of ‘‘Essential Communication Skills for Leaders’ – and ‘Communications when Networking.

Organiser – Larissa De Lopez

Leadership and Networking use many of the same tools and it is all about connecting.

It is not about ‘owning the floor’ through forceful participation, or seeking to gain influence through ‘telling’ but about opening the other persons mind to accept input, and you do that by understanding what follows here:-

  1. Learn the type of questions to ask
  2. Discover how to maintain a balanced conversation
  3. Leave this session with practical insights and the confidence to begin your networking journey

What is most important if you want to achieve (2) above is that you concentrate on listening!

You need to be the facilitator, not the commander – if you are entering the conversation to achieve a specific goal, then you listen and your responses to what was said will lead the other person where you want them to go, without the need to ask outright. Of course, you can ask outright, just be careful you have their attention and interest before you do, if possible, consider ‘what’s in it for them!

Yes, you need to start with a question sometimes, sometimes the other person will ask a question and you don’t have to start the ball rolling.

People like to hear themselves talk. People love to hear that you have listened.

Therefore, using the art of summarising, recapping, giving feedback, asking about what they just said, again relieves you of the onus of thinking of a question and establishes real interest; saves you from unknowingly stepping on toes, helps to ask relevant questions to their interest.

Building a relationship is not about you selling yourself to the other person but making it interesting for the other person to ask about you, which they will do if you start by listening.

In my book, DevelopThroughLeadershipThinking, I go on, and on, about this; I provide a tool that really underpins this concept – it is called A L A L A – ask, listen, ask, listen, ask. It is 5 parts, not two or four, but FIVE.

Now if the other person started with the question, it becomes, LALAL – Listen, ask about what they said, listen, ask about what they said, listen, ask about what they said.

At this stage you have their attention; the usual interchange consists of both parties trying to get the attention, neither listening, neither connecting. You would have experienced that.

You need to enter the interaction being genuine – wanting to exchange with the other person on their terms, giving yourself permission to do so.

Tools such as ALALA are imperative, as is active listening, confirming, expanding – what they have said, intimated, seem interested in – once this is established, the whole experience becomes equal value and parties settle into a useful dialogue!

The use of argument – this can assist in developing a relationship but using question starters and sentences that capture the others positive attention. A useful starter question that embodies the concept of listening is, “Can you help me by explaining a bit further what you said about…”, OR, if you want to argue – (arguing is ok when it is done positively) – “When you said ….. …. I reflected that I thought … …, can we talk about that?”

Types of questions to ask – at a basic level the four main question types are

Open End questions

help you get the other person to talk – Start the question with a ‘What, where, why, when, who or how’. Keep ALALA in mind here, to keep the open ears and open mind working with you and the other party.

Closed-End Questions

are about getting the other person to make a commitment, get to a recognised point. So, avoid the 5 x W’s and H (as above) and ask more the definite question, questions that are somewhat difficult to expand on – “So we will meet Wednesday at 5.00 pm, the same place?”  That will bring a yes, no or you will find out you haven’t yet arrived at an agreement, open-ended questions come in again then.

Alternate questions

very much help to assist someone to make up their mind, for you to see where you are n a conversation, eg “So would Friday at 10.00 am or Saturday at 8.30 am Suit you best? That’s a soft open or closed question in as much as the person has been directed, guided, to show agreement about meeting and time and day.

Assumptive questions

also help to establish a forward movement within the conversation that has been had, eg “So we will meet here next Tuesday at 10.00 am?” Much the same as the example of the closed-end question but formed specifically to gain a direct and firm answer or bring forth a disagreement, further discussion.


Positives and negatives; built relationships and those still being established need different skills.


It is possible, that you hear something, and you find disagreement. It is rare that someone comes into a conversation wanting to be doubted, be found to be wrong or at least that you have a better idea! If your goal is to establish a connection, be beware of not ‘shooting the other person down! Refer to the bottom of my comment on page 1.

Be aware that two heads are better than one and so before you push your thoughts too much, make sure you understand what the other person has to contribute. Be open-minded.

Right and wrong, fault and blame, guilt, are all part of the subconscious and can impact the way we interact. The use of A L A L A  really helps to keep ‘equal value’ – have you ever wished you hadn’t said something? A L A L A will help you avoid that.

If in doubt, shut up and ask a question!

Beware of assumptions!

Don’t rely on your first impression – it will get in the way!

My book, DevelopThroughLeadershipThinking has loads more about all this, you can get your copy at www.LeadershipThjinking.Academy




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