By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority.

Of all the qualities and skills we need I believe the key to effective networking is asking the right questions. Why?

- We only learn and spot potential opportunities by asking questions, then of course listening to the answer!

- It shows you are interested in the other person meaning it can be a powerful way to build long-term relationships

- With good questions, you are showing others that you are fully engaged and that you, to some extent, understand what they’re all about

- It means you’re in control of the conversation

- It enables you to practice listening since you are giving others more time to speak

- When people talk, they want to be heard and understood. But sometimes, they don't even know what they're talking about. That's because their first words are often just the tip of the iceberg. They represent the surface of our thoughts, rather than the deep structure experience behind those thoughts.

- The reality of communication is that when people share their words, it's incredibly easy to think you understand when you don't really have a clue! That's one of the main reasons for communication difficulties. Asking questions must be the best way to find out what people really mean, while giving them the opportunity to find out with you!

- You can patiently and supportively demonstrate that you care about what they are saying; all part of the relationship building

- You can almost always gather higher-quality information than what is initially offered. Questions allow both of you to clarify the details and understand the specifics of the conversation, rather than coping with, and reacting to, vague generalisations.

3 Quotes about Asking Questions

Naguib Mahout - "You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions"

Voltaire's - "Judge Others by their questions, rather than by their answers"

Chinese proverb "One who asks a question may be considered a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."

Potential dangers of asking questions

It is possible to question too much, or to over analyse things. Sometimes we don’t know if the person is really in the mood to talk to us. If you feel like someone doesn’t really want to talk to you, it’s no big deal. Move on to someone else with courtesy and politeness.

Aren't people going to be annoyed by me if I keep questioning them? - Yes if you ask the wrong questions in certain ways on the wrong day. We must tread carefully when we meet ‘strangers’ and be able to read the situation very quickly.

When we ask, what we consider, are potential sensitive question consider prefixing then with “Do you mind if I ask?”

If you do get a response to your question which suggests you shouldn’t have asked it acknowledge the fact then move on to something else. Apologise if relevant.

Others can learn much from your questioning them, even if they don't seem to be enjoying the experience at the time. Pick your spots. Try to convince others that you are asking questions to try to better understand their reasoning, not to put them on the spot. We believe that enduring some annoyances in others is the price we all have to pay if we want to gain useful information.

Don’t interrogate; ensure the conversations ebbs and flows and if you realise this conversation is like pulling teeth…pull out!

After you’ve asked the question don’t do what most people do ( and I am often a perpetrator!) is interrupt, just listen then answer or comment.

As Dale Carnegie said in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Let the other person do most of the talking; be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves”. He wrote that 75 + years ago; some things never change!

The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of networking.

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