Originally published November 3, 2014

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  1. Ask questions to stimulate discussion — include questions that everyone can answer without fear of being wrong.
  2. Ask people to respond with their thoughts — especially those who have not been heard or may be reluctant to speak up.
  3. Concentrate on listening — really hear what others are saying.
  4. Don’t plan your next statement while others are talking — pay attention to the discussion.
  5. Write down things to remember so you don’t forget them — this will allow you to focus on listening rather than trying not to forget.
  6. Respond to what others say — this will show that you are listening.
  7. Use people’s names — they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  8. Speak loudly, clearly, and not too quickly — this allows others, including non-English speakers, to understand what you are saying.
  9. For in-person conversations, look others in the eye — periodically rotate your gaze between all participants.
  10. Don’t talk too long — pause regularly to allow others to ask questions and get a word in.
  11. Smile and use hand gestures — be sure the gestures are positive, not intimidating.
  12. Acknowledge the points of others — praise them if possible.
  13. Wait for a natural pause in the conversation — don’t jump in with your next point while others are still speaking.
  14. If others start talking while you are talking, don’t raise your voice or quicken your pace — hear them out, and then resume what you were saying if it still applies.
  15. Don’t make the conversation just about you — bring up topics you know will be of interest to others.
  16. Articulate your own point of view — and allow for others to do the same.
  17. Tell stories — gain and hold the interest of the participants.
  18. Use humor when it fits — make sure it is appropriate and will be understood by all.
  19. Keep the conversation moving — when a topic has been discussed long enough, make a new point or ask a new question.
  20. Recognize when a conversation should end, either due to time limits, or when it has run its course — summarize highlights, review next steps, and thank the participants.

Sample Questions


  1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. What did you want to be when you went to college?
  3. What was your first job after college? Why did you make this choice?
  4. How did you get into your current field?
  5. What would you do if you weren’t doing your current job?


  1. Do your family and friends understand what you do for a living? Do you even bother to explain?
  2. What is your name? What is the story behind your name?
  3. If time, money, or other constraints were removed, where would you choose to vacation and why?
  4. What did your parents do for a living? What impact did that have on your choice of careers?
  5. Can you share a situation that has occurred in your life that you feel provides insight as to your character?
  6. Do you have a memory of receiving a favorite gift? What was it, and why was it special?
  7. What is a passion of yours that you rarely share with people at work? Why not?
  8. What was a turning point in your life? How did it affect you?


  1. SHAM Discussion Group
  2. Relearning the Art of Asking Questions by Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas.
  3. How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting by Keith Ferrazzi
  4. Three Rules For Holding Virtual Meetings That People Don’t Hate by Shani Harmon
  5. Guided Insights by Nancy Settle-Murphy
  6. Conversations by Nancy Settle-Murphy

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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