Respond rather than react (and save precious time, money and energy)
Slow down to speed things up. Yes, I know – it’s a dichotomy (I had to look it up – a polar opposite, a contrariety) to say you have to slow down to speed things up. Well it’s true.
So often we think we have to decide on the spot; say “yes” or “no” in the moment and know all the answers to the questions we’re asked. Well, we’re actually making things harder for ourselves and harder on ourselves if we believe that to be true. Hitting things back like a tennis ball over the net isn’t a strategy – it’s more like survival and it wears you down.
I’ve learned we think faster than we think. It’s worth saying again to remind us both – we think faster than we think. Our brain processes the question; the decision; the issue in front of us quickly.
What we do is assume that we have to always be thinking on the spot and just because we’re asked a question we have to know the answer; respond straight away or act immediately. Well, we don’t. Even if we do know the answer, we don’t have to commit ourselves straight away. We can buy ourselves time and find subtle ways to make the other person wait – even if it’s for just a few seconds.
Clients say, particularly women, one of the big struggles they have when they’re promoted or as they take on more responsibility is the feeling of fear of having to know all the answers; of “making the right decision on the spot”. Well, “hello”- firstly who does know all the answers? Secondly, who knows what the right decision is? Only time tells us that. We make decisions taking into account what’s going on at the time; the information, insight and instinct we have and then, we wait to find out how it pans out.
It’s liberating – certainly it is for me – to know that you don’t have to know all the answers and you don’t have to do everything or decide everything “now” – even if it would suit others if you did.
People waste so much time, money and energy – our three most precious resources – by rushing into decisions; responding to emails in “shooting from the fingertip” mode; being asked questions and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
Clearing up or back-tracking from rushed decisions or responses just slows us down.
Here’s just 3 of the many ways to slow things down to speed things up for yourself when you’re asked a question:
- Repeat the question. Say it back to the person in a way that sounds thoughtful (it is) so you and your brain can process it. It also has the added bonus of making sure the person asking the question is actually asking what they want. (This is a great tip for interviews by the way).
- Ask the person asking what they think first. You can literally say “hmm, now before I tell you what I think, what do you think?” This is especially powerful for someone working or reporting to you – why not make them do the thinking first?
- Ask another question. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Rather than answer what you’ve been asked; ask a few more questions about the background to the question to get clearer and, again, to buy you and your brain a few more seconds before – and if – you decide to answer. Pause.
Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?
As a strategic, savvy businesswoman, give yourself a bit more time and space to plan your reply. You know more than you think you know and sometimes, a few extra seconds to think about it gives you the chance to really show it.