Many of us think that the faster we respond, the smarter we sound.
But have you regretted saying the wrong things and you wish you didn’t say it so quickly? Remember how you often realize you should say this instead of that before you go to bed?
The best response usually don’t come instantly, and smart people know this very well. Before they answer a question, they go through some steps first.
The flow is, pause before everything else. Then, divert the question if you don’t want to answer it actually. But if you want to answer and can do it at once, hold yourself before the editing process.
1Pause and allow yourself to think
When you can’t think of an answer immediately, and people are waiting for you, don’t let the pressure to respond quickly stop you from saying “let me think” or “I need some time to think about it”. It’s better to wait for a while for a great answer than replying at once with nonsense. People won’t remember how long you take to process the answer after they get wowed and impressed by your amazing and logical thoughts.
2Dodge the question with skill
We all have that moment when someone asked an inappropriate question. Sometimes, you are not required to answer every question thrown at you. While you think and pause, you can divert the question if you don’t feel like answering that question or you just don’t know the answer. Robert MacNamara epitomized this when he said,
Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked.
It goes for any tricky situation, like a job interview.
Imagine the interviewer asks you on the reason of quitting your previous job, you don’t have to explain yourself. You could simply say, “Talking about my previous job, I did this and that. I learned and developed different skills like managerial skills, communication skills, etc. And I wish to challenge myself more.
While you are not completely responding what the other person is asking, you are giving them a rational answer, and selling yourself at the same time. This is the magical power of language.
Of course, there are more methods to diverting a question, like turning the tables or using transition devices to move to the next question, here is more.
3Edit your words before you say them aloud
Smart people don’t stutter. While they pause before answering, they think about few things:
- How can I present my ideas in a way people can understand at once?
- How can I impress them with my answer?
- Would my answer be inappropriate or offensive?
Take the flow, the content, and the length of your response all into deep consideration, and you could definitely stun your listeners with your answer.
If possible, visualize a mind map in your head and quickly go through the points you want to hit, and elaborate on your points as you are answering the question.
That’s hard, I am bad at putting my thoughts together.
You don’t have to overshare when you are giving an answer. Sometimes less is more. Don’t give yourself too much pressure and to give the “perfect” response. In most situations, there is not an absolute answer. There is also not a rubric grading how all-arounded or politically correct your answer is.
To sound smart, you simply pause and think of what you want to say, take a deep breath and answer with confidence. The more you practice this pause-then-answer method, I’m sure you will sharpen your skill and perfect the art of answering questions in no time.