Answering hard questions is rarely easy. You need to think quickly, remain calm and speak with clarity and confidence.
Leaders often get hit with tough questions. The way in which they respond can either reinforce their trustworthiness or leave others feeling dubious or even suspicious.
To improvise more effectively, start by buying time. Pause and reflect before you say a word.
This might sound simple, but it goes against the impulse of many fast-talking, take-charge personalities. They may assume that silence equals uncertainty, so they rush to blurt out an answer without thinking it through.
In truth, a quick pause enhances your credibility. It shows that you’re treating the question seriously and pondering it before you reply.
Another tactic to stall for time is to repeat or rephrase the question (“So what you’re asking is …”). When you do that, some questioners might wind up adding their own commentary and even answering their own question. That saves you from having to formulate a reply.
If you’re confronting a complex or ambiguous query, invite the questioner to repeat it. Say, “Would you kindly repeat that? I want to make sure I got all of it.”
Given a second chance, a questioner might streamline the inquiry and make it easier for you to tackle.
You can also seek clarification. To address a broad question, respond by asking, “Are you referring to 2015 or since we started gathering data in 2010?” or some other attempt to narrow the scope of the subject at hand.
— Adapted from “Thinking on your feet,” Brett and Kate McKay, www.artofmanliness.com.