Thinking On Your Feet – How To Do This Effortlessly
We have all be caught out at one time or another – put on the spot and asked a tricky or difficult question that required a careful and considered answer but time is against you.
The weaker amongst us will throw out a few garbled words, utter some rubbish to deflect the moment, give a disjointed and irrelevant response while those around either smile inwardly or just cringe for you.
Even worse a more confident colleague or person in the room offers a really good answer and the moment is gone – would cannot come back from that position and you are left frustrated and embarrassed at your stumbled and garbled response.
Thinking on your feet is a critical business skill: managing well in a high-powered business situation separates out the successful from the not-so-successful in business and in life. What’s more annoying is that it only comes naturally to a select few – the rest of us must learn the hard way!
What can you do when you are in that situation?
- Try to remain calm and focused: use your logical mindset and try not to let your breathing and stress levels get in the way.
- Do not panic! Never get drawn into making statements or giving opinions that you cannot later substantiate. Covering up your lack of knowledge like this is a very dangerous game to play.
- Think strategy: what are you trying to get out of the situation and how can you then see your answer further along in the conversation.
- Be prepared: a meeting or a negotiation will be a testing experience so think ahead and consider what the likely questions or challenges might look and feel like. Put yourself in the shoes of others and think what they might come out with.
- Quick thinkers use time well; ask the questioner to repeat the question or to clarify wat they are asking. The question will always be much clearer the second time around. Failing that repeat the question back to the originator as this also creates thinking space for you to prepare your response.
- If you do not have an answer ready to fire back this is not a problem.be honest: if you need time to consider a response then say this as the other party will appreciate your honesty rather than just diving in with an inaccurate or wrong response!
- “Can I take a moment to think about that question?” is also a good response which buys thinking time and shows that you are serious about giving a quality reply. The hostile audience will always pick holes in what you say if you say something without really considering it, thereby creating more tension and stress for you.
In terms of your response always aim to speak less and say more! Make sure that your response has brevity and impact. Think logically and carefully making the choice of words used work for you and not against you!
Never be afraid to ask more questions before you reply; this is a good approach in clarifying the point of the question and a key factor in giving a top-quality response. If you broaden a question out to avoid being sucked into a minefield of technical and narrow data.
Never ignore your body language which will give away clues as to your thinking and stress: palms up and palms down have very different messages to your audience (palms up invite others into the conversation whilst palms down indicate that you are in control, are serious and are making a key point).
If the audience is still hostile and still seeking answers try to calm things down by asking what is the cause of their concerns and show consideration for their views. This will then quickly bring them around to your message if you then tailor your responses carefully.
Always remember that snap comments and decisions rarely work and will entrap you further down the line!
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