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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

5 types of supportive conversation [Wise Wednesdays #353]

Effective conversations are crucial in our fast-paced, complex, globalised world.

Coaching skills are becoming increasingly important, especially compared to traditional command-and-control, directive skills.

Our first response to a problem is often to offer advice, but that doesn’t always help.

Next time someone from your team or network approaches you with a problem, pause for a moment. Before jumping in, put the ball back in their court and ask:

How can I support you best?

You can offer them a couple of options from the five below:

  1. Listening: For someone who just needs to vent or clear their thoughts and calm their emotions. Offer space and the luxury of non-interruption. E.g. ‘I just got fired’.

  2. Reflections (Empathy): For someone who needs to feel a sense of shared reality and remember they’re not alone. Reflect back what you hear with a soothing, calm voice so they know you’ve heard them and are not judging them. E.g. ‘I feel overwhelmed at work.’

  3. Questions (Curiosity): For someone who needs help clarifying an idea or wants to discover a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘silly’ or challenging question. They often reveal the elephant in the room. E.g. I can’t figure out Kubernetes’.

  4. Brainstorming: For someone who is in action mode and is looking for tips to refine or pivot their approach and maintain momentum. E.g. ‘I’m not sure how to structure the conference flow’.

  5. Advice: For someone who just needs information or instructions. E.g. What's the WiFi password? How do I organise a Teams conference? Can you help me understand the organisational structure?

Advanced Tip: Use a story, metaphor, or proverb to illustrate a point. This has three benefits: it activates the imagination, creates a deeper connection, and is more likely to stick.

When you think about how many conversations are just advice or explanations, imagine how many opportunities to really help people are lost.

In any interaction, there’s a delicate balance between being authoritative/directive and being receptive/facilitative. It’s the yin and yang of relationships. Some call it Surrendered Leadership, and I believe it’s the future of mature leadership on our beautiful planet.

Are you more receptive or authoritative in your important conversations? Which will you practise next time?

Have a great week,


P.S. Surrendered Leadership Practice Opportunity:

I’m planning to revamp the Leaders Circle to explore advanced relational skills, which are crucial as AI expands and our contexts become more complex. I’m running a beta version for a small group (limited to 4 participants) and would like to invite you to join. If you’re interested in participating in the complimentary beta version of the Leaders Circle and practicing Surrendered Leadership in exchange for feedback, please sign up for the Zoom session here. It’s scheduled for next Thursday, the 20th, at 6:30pm UK / 1:30pm EST. For more information and to book your spot, click here >>

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