Answering questions is reflexive. We rarely pause to think about what we will say, much less how we say it. I'm working on learning to be more intentional about both aspects. Whether it be in the office, giving a presentation, or on a first date - how you respond to questions matters. Good answers can give you credibility, build relationships, and make you more interesting. So what is a “good” answer?
A good answer depends on both what you say and how you say it:
What you say:
- giving a direct answer
- challenging the question
- clarifying the question
How you say it:
- level of detail
- body language
- broader context
For this post, I’ll offer one tip worth practicing under how you say it:
In his book The McKinsey Edge, consultant Shu Hattori recommends a theory he calls “double-clicking.” The concept, analogous to clickable drop-down boxes typical in user interfaces, involves providing shorter, 30-second responses to questions. Shorter responses allow the listener to refocus attention to the topic of their interest and follow up with more questions. This is tough to do. Our reflex is often to give drawn-out answers - especially if it is related to a topic that we care deeply about. Instead of losing the listener’s interest with too much information, providing a shorter, broad response allows listeners to “click” on specific aspects to find out more. Even more importantly, this tactic helps you develop a sense of what others actually want to know. Over time, you begin to understand how how to better engage your audience, which is valuable beyond words.