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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Answer the Question

One of the first things you are likely to encounter when interacting with others is the question and answer interactions.  Typical conversations with friends, interactions with staff or supervisors, sales & marketing, business partnering discussions, raising capital and most every other kind of interaction has a Q & A component.  Listen to candidates in debates.  They get questions and have to answer. 

You will find many different approaches to answering questions.  Some people provide an extensive amount of information, some brief terse answers, others are vague, and some highly specific.  Usually, the person asking the question has a limited attention span and really has an interest in hearing the answer to the question asked.  They may have asked a specific question to get to a point in the conversation that is further in the discussion.

So what is the problem?  Most people are guilty of not being specific in their response at times.    For example, you may have heard a response to a question you asked that took more than 5 minutes to give. You wanted to be polite and not interrupt so you allowed the person to continue talking.  Yet, the person was answering a different question or at least not specifically answering your question.  This gets rather annoying if it occurs frequently.

One way to deal with the issue is thinking ahead about what you want to say when answering.  Perhaps you need to provide a significant amount of detail or you want to clarify how you came up with the answer.  Maybe you are unknowingly being defensive in your response.  Your thinking about the question and your intended response allows you to put the answer in a better form. 

One thing I learned (the hard way) is to give the short version of the answer first.  Make a short specific answer the first thing out of your mouth.  Then add whatever detail or explanations wish to provide.  This way the listener can turn off if they really did not want to listen and be satisfied you gave them the answer.  (It may not be polite, but it happens.)

In short, when you get a question, give a short specific answer first & make sure the initial response is specific and clear. Then add whatever else you want to say about the topic.  People will follow you much better and you won’t lose them as easily in the discussion.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon