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Answering Questions Quickly Doesn’t Mean You’re Smarter, Here’s Why

Answering Questions Quickly Doesn’t Mean You’re Smarter, Here’s Why

Do you have a friend that is quick to answer any question fired their way? Sometimes we associate those who answer questions more quickly as being witty and smarter. We may even believe that if we answer questions at a quicker rate we will be perceived as being more intelligent. But often those who answer questions quickly provide inadequate answers and stammer over their responses. Answering questions quickly doesn’t mean you’re smarter, here’s why:

We live in a fast paced society which at times, requires quick-wits and the ability to think fast. We deem those who answer questions in a rapid-fire pace as being smarter and better able to digest new material. However, in a study completed at New York University, a group of psychologists asked volunteers to answer a set of question typed in either an easy to read font or a blurry font. The results concluded the people who had to work harder to read the question answered the question more accurately than those who had an easy to read font.

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What To Do When You’re Asked A Difficult Question:

We may not think of improvisation immediately when it comes to answering questions quickly, but it is a vital skill. Knowing how to improvise is being able to think on your feet.  It provides us with the ability to answer difficult questions fired our way. When a question is fired our way, we naturally tend to pounce and deliver an answer immediately. In our fast past society, a delayed response may not get us a job during an interview, or seal the deal in a business meeting and so on. But improvisation allows us the ability to buy more time when a difficult question is fired our way.

Effective Ways to Answer Vague or Complex Questions:

When questions are directed at us, they may not always be the clearest. The question itself may be vague or overly complex, leaving you wondering how to answer the question. You can effectively answer vague or overly complex question in the following ways:

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Repetition of Question.

Simply ask them to repeat the question. It can sound like this: I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, would you mind repeating the question? When you make this request it shows that you are interested in the question and that you would like to provide the best answer possible.

Request Clarification.

This works best with vague and overly complex questions. If the question isn’t clear, it is best to respond to the question with another question that prompts the person to clarify query.

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Be Clear in the Definition.

Specific words can mean several different things to different people. To avoid talking in circles ask the questioner to define specific terms in their inquiry.  For example, if someone asks you:  Why do you thinking shopping is feminine? You can respond by asking them: How do you define feminine? By asking for clear definitions of specific terms in the query you begin to expand upon the real root of the question being fired your way.

Effective Ways to Answer Inappropriate or Provocative Questions:

Unfortunately, we may face questions asked of us that are entirely inappropriate and provocative. The solution is to hedge your response.  Meaning, there are situations where the answer we may provide may not be the answer the questioner seeks.

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Respond to One Point of the Question.

There may be aspects of the question you do not wish to answer, and that’s more than okay. Focus your response on the aspect that you feel most confident in responding to.

Discuss the Question by Asking a Question.

More than we realize, when someone poses an inappropriate or provocative question, it really isn’t a question at all. Instead, they may seek a discussion about the question itself. You could ask the questioner why they seek the answers to their question or what motivates their interest in the specific subject.

Narrow Down the Question.

Questions that are overly complex can be answered with a response by narrowing down the question by using specific words to direct the questioner’s attention. By narrowing down the question you effectively acknowledge the complex question, but make a verbal acknowledgement of answering only a specific and narrow aspect to the question.

Conclusion:

Although being quick-witted is often desired, it may not lead to the best way to answer a question fired your way. It’s more than okay to not know the answer off the top of your head.  If anything, by using the techniques above, it will allow for you to provide a clear and concise answer rather than blurting out an incomplete answer that lacks thoughtfulness.

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Tara Massan

Founder of Be Moved, Life Coach and Writer.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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