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

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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.

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. 

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…

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…

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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