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If You Think Promptly Answering A Question Makes You Look Smart, Read This

If You Think Promptly Answering A Question Makes You Look Smart, Read This

Is one of your greatest fears speaking in public? Or having all eyes on you? Maybe it’s being asked a question you weren’t prepared for?

Many of us feel that when we are asked questions directly, we are not clever or smart enough if we do not immediately have an answer. We might feel cornered, flustered, or we might feel as if the right thing to do is to give the questioner what they need as quickly as possible.

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Common responses to being questioned are nervousness, stammering, turning red, a general fear of how we will be received, and a discomfort in being suddenly put on the spot. Asking questions of a person, however, is not only about the answer they give but also a way to identify their character. There is an art to questioning. Response time, along with how you respond, is all part of the approach. So, here are a few thing to remember.

You Don’t Have To Answer Immediately

Contrary to popular belief, we do not have to answer questions immediately. There is another way! If you are feeling nervous or are stumbling, try practicing techniques that will allow some time for your brain to catch up and allow you to say what you really mean. Remember, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and there is more than one way to answer a question. As people feel they are having their question answered, your duty is accomplished. Giving a seemingly wise response, even after time, is better than giving an immediate silly answer out of fear. When you begin to understand the art of questioning, you better understand what to do when it comes to being under fire. 

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Those Who Ask Difficult Questions May Not Want A Direct Answer

When you are questioned, the sought-after response may not be typical of an exam-style Q and A. Your answer to the question may be more in the realm of communication and conversation, and so your answer need not be a direct response to the question itself. The question should be considered and responded to with your own personal charm — if you can manage it. A tactful, considered response is more valuable than what you might initially think the questioner wants to hear. They are considering you and sizing you up with the things they are asking. Know how to improvise. Learn how to gently maneuver your enquirer by using a few tricks.

Tricks And Tips

Ask them to repeat the question.

This will give you time if nothing else. It’s the number one trick in the book. If that fails…

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Reflect the question with a question.

Ask the enquirer something about the question to again give you some time, but also to give you more information if you are unclear about the discussion.

Ask for clarification of the question, or the definition of the question.

(Eg. “Can you tell me what you mean by …”) This can often throw the enquirer and give you even more time to assert yourself and clarify your own meaning. If the question is vague, you can also…

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Take initiative and clarify the point yourself.

Perhaps the questioner asked you something about failure, to which you could reply “If by failing, you mean …” and then interpret it as you see fit.

Allow yourself a small pause.

This is another great trick, but be careful not to start in with “um” and “ah” — this will only make you sound vague and insipid and won’t help your cause of being witty and charming at all.

Redirect the question

Send it back to them. This is a last attempt, but sometimes an effective one. For example, if someone asks if you are in a relationship, ask them then if they are in a relationship. It will even out the playing field if their initial idea was to throw you off guard.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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