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How to Think on Your Feet When You’re Put on the Spot

If you want to advance your career, you need to be comfortable speaking up and voicing your opinions. Speaking up not only makes a positive impression, but also conveys your value and confidence. Successful professionals know that preparation is key to strong, succinct communication. Expressing yourself clearly is exponentially easier when you have time to premeditate a response. But what happens when you need to think on your feet when you’re put on the spot.

Getting caught off guard is anxiety-provoking for anyone, but is particularly stressful for a group called sensitive strivers, who have reactive central nervous systems. On the one hand, this makes them observant, perceptive, and attuned to people’s needs. On the other, they can become easily overwhelmed, especially when put under pressure.

Here are three strategies that can help you speak up the next time you feel put on the spot.

Start With Appreciation

Begin by letting the other person know that you have heard and value their input or request. You can say, “that’s a great question Jane. Thanks for asking. I understand why it’s so important to identify the next steps in this project.” This two-step formula of validation and appreciation allows you to deliver a fast reply and helps build goodwill through active listening. You can take it a step further by commending the person for the insight and intelligence inherent in their comments. For example, “the fact that you’re posing this now, Jane, says a lot about your level of conscientiousness and dedication to making this project a success.”

Repeat the Question

Imagine you’re asked about status on a new technology rollout that your team is overseeing, but you haven’t been directly involved in the initiative. As manager, you’re still accountable for the results and need to provide an answer. In this situation, you could repeat back the question, asking for clarification. For example, “when you say you’d like a status report on the rollout, would you like me to focus on our resourcing requirements or feedback from the client so far?” Reflecting and clarifying gives you a moment to think and gather your thoughts. It also encourages your counterpart to get more specific, which in turn, can provide you with clarity and guide your response.

Access your Past Experiences

Particular sensitive, yet ambitious, individuals tend to put pressure on themselves to produce novel, original thought on the spot. But when you’re caught off guard, the one of the best things you can do is rely on your existing body of work and expertise. Flip through your mental rolodex to try and find a prior professional situation to the one you’re facing now.

Source: Fast Company

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