We all want to look our best at all times at work, but, as sometimes happens, situations arise in which we’re caught off guard or thrown into a situation we had no prior warning about. So how do you improve your reaction in those instances where you have to act in the moment?
Find your true focus.
When you get caught up in wondering how others will view your answer, you’ve lost sight of the question already. When in a discussion, center on figuring out what you truly need clarification on, what question you could ask to keep the conversation moving, and what insight you have that would add to the discussion. When you center on clarity rather than looking good, the latter happens by itself anyway.
Restate the question.
A classic move to buy yourself some time, repeating a question gives you time to think of an answer rather than rushing in with an incomplete answer or one that doesn’t address the question asked. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to respond, and repeating the question gives you some time not only to formulate a proper response but also to make sure you fully understand what’s being asked.
Go with confidence, not fear.
If you want others to have confidence in your knowledge, you need to have it first. Do you feel strong in your knowledge and good about the work you’re doing? Do you have a positive attitude that engages other colleagues and clients? Then you don’t have to lead with fear, afraid you’ll look foolish when responding on the fly. Ask a question, again both to give yourself time to respond and to gain information. Then trust your gut.
Embrace the pause.
The fact of the matter is, you don’t have to respond immediately when caught off guard in a situation. You have every right to stop and say something like, “Let me think about that/Good question” as you gather yourself. And if you need a little time to formulate a response, do so…just make sure you figure out that response promptly.
Don’t get defensive.
We instinctually get our hackles up when we feel off-balance, and that may come out verbally as a negative response. So if, for example, someone (constructively) criticizes a presentation you’ve worked hard on, instead of reacting defensively with a “No, but…” response, try “Yes, and…” instead. It’s an old improv comedy trick that allows you to move things forward and see where you might add something or make a change. At the very least, consider the person’s critique as calmly as possible and respond positively, moving forward.
Thinking on your feet isn’t always easy – but you’ll have plenty of chances to get better at it. And when you want to find your next workplace, visit PrideStaff.