So often we think we have to decide on the spot; say “yes” or “no” in the moment and know all the answers to the questions we are asked. Well, we’re actually making things harder for ourselves if we believe that to be true. Hitting things back like a tennis ball over the net isn’t a strategy…it’s more like survival and it wears you down.
I’ve learned we think faster than we think. It’s worth saying again to remind us both – we think faster than we think. Our brain processes the question; the decision; the issue in front of us quickly. We assume that we always have to be thinking on the spot and just because we’re asked a question we have to know the answer and respond straightaway. Well, we don’t. Even if we do know the answer, we don’t have to commit ourselves immediately. We can buy ourselves time and find subtle ways to make the other person wait – even for just a few seconds.
My clients say that one of the biggest struggles they have is when they’re promoted or if they take on more responsibility the feeling of fear of having to know all the answers; of “making the right decision on the spot”. Well, “hello”- firstly who does know all the answers? Secondly, who knows what the right decision is? Only time tells us that. We make decisions based on what’s going on at the time; the information, insight and instinct we have and then we wait to find out how it pans out.
It’s liberating – certainly for me – to know that you don’t have to know all of the answers and you don’t have to do everything or decide everything “now” – even if it would suit others if you did.
People waste so much time, money and energy – our three most precious resources – by rushing into decisions; responding to emails in “shooting from the fingertip” mode; being asked questions and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Clearing up or back-tracking from rushed responses or decisions just slows us down.
Here are just 3 of many ways to slow things down to speed things up for yourself when you’re asked a question:
- Repeat the question. Say it back to the person in a way that sounds thoughtful (it is) so you and your brain can process it. It also has the added bonus of making sure the person asking the question is actually asking what they want. (This is a greattip for interviews by the way)
- Ask the person asking what they think first. You can literally say “hmm, nowbefore I tell you what I think, what do you think?” This is especially powerful for someone working or reporting to you – why not make them do the thinking first?
- Ask another question. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Rather than answer what you’ve been asked; ask a few more questions about the background to the question to get clearer and, again, to buy you and your brain a few more seconds before – and if – you decide to answer.
Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?
As a strategic, savvy businesswoman, give yourself a bit more time and space to plan your reply. You know more than you think you know and sometimes, a few extra seconds to think about it gives you the chance to really show it.
Let’s make it your time to shine, in your own way. When would now be a better time to go for Promotion, Recognition and Rewards?
Here’s a helpful, immediate Gift for you. Q is for Questions – A downloadable PDF of a chapter from my # 1 best-selling book The A to Z of Being Understood.
Use the chapter to lead conversations, to be more compelling when you first meet someone and – crucially – connect with colleagues, clients, customers by the power of your confident questions.