Thinking on your feet or thinking when you are under pressure or making quick decisions whenever a situation arises. It is the quality that one needs to become successful in the present competitive world.
Whether at a job or in personal life, you will come across various situations where you will be required to make quick decisions. Therefore, thinking on your feet is one of the crucial qualities that many organizations look for in their potential employees.
Seeking the quality to work under pressure and think on your feet is not new. Organizations like defense organizations and the FBI have been using the “Thinking on your feet” exercise in their interview process to hire people.
14 Tips for Thinking On Your Feet
1. Be relaxed
The first and the pro tip that will help you become a master at thinking fast is staying calm and relaxed no matter what kind of situation you face. Don’t let the pressure of the situation get into your mind.
The pressure will make you nervous and will affect your thinking abilities. However, it is natural for a human being to get tense when struck with unexpected situations.
You can practice taking deep breaths, repeating affirmative sentences such as “I got this” or “I can do this,” and tensing and releasing your muscles to release anxiety. By practicing these small exercises, you can overcome your anxiety immediately and can think clearly.
2. Pay attention
Your chances to get the solution will become low if you don’t pay attention to the question that the questioner is asking you. You should pay the utmost attention to every small detail of the question.
You must cut out all distractions. Put your mobile phone on silent. If you are working on a laptop, then either turn it off or keep it away while listening. In addition to this, you are required to pay attention to the question and the body language and facial expressions of the questioners.
Sometimes, a questioner reveals a lot of information through their hand gestures and facial expressions. For example, suppose the questioner is making too many hand gestures and making frequent eye contact with you. In that case, he is interested in your opinion and trusts you to provide a solution. However, it can be untrue; you need to pay careful attention to every detail to get control over the situation.
3. Show confidence:
Having confidence in self is very important. When faced with an unexpected situation, it is not only for you to feel confident, but you are also required to look confident.
You will feel confident when you are aware of the work that you do and are engaged with your work regularly. Confidence can also be attained by practice. To practice, you can try to find solutions for expected situations or read about stories of people who have solved difficult problems.
Moreover, having a good relationship with your manager and peers will also help you tackle a situation with confidence. Once you know how they think and what they expect, you will feel confident and comfortable to provide the solutions that they will like and will be right for the organization.
You should show confidence in both the way you speak and through your body language.
4. Repeat the questions
When you are presented with a question, your first instinct is to immediately come up with a solution. But if you come up with a solution without thinking correctly, then your solution can come off, and you may lose your chance to speak.
However, the best way to deal with such situations is by repeating the questions. In this way, you will get a chance to calm your nerves down and get an opportunity to fill in the information you might have missed.
By doing this, you make sure that you completely understand the question before you come up with a solution.
5. Ask to repeat the question:
You can choose either of the fourth or fifth tips to establish a better understanding of the question. However, you should go for asking your questioner to repeat the question if you didn’t understand the question correctly.
Remember that asking to repeat the question doesn’t show you any less competitive. Instead, you get a chance to listen to the question again and to establish a better understanding of it.
Moreover, the questioner will rephrase the question. That might help you to understand and comprehend the question in a better way.
6. Don’t be afraid
When in an unexpected situation, even though you are allowed to provide a solution, no one asks you to come up with a brilliant solution immediately. The fear that you might fail to come up with the right solution or look stupid might scare you.
This fear might stop you from taking part in the conversation. Therefore, practice to remain calm and confident in every situation is essential.
7. Take your “let me think” moment:
You need to think before you open your mouth to present your solution. There is no harm in taking a moment of silence. By remaining silent, you can think about how you would want to answer before presenting your solution, or you can choose the right words to answer.
You can ask for permission to think about your questioner by saying the following phrases such as “let me think” or “That’s a great question.” This will buy you time to think about your answer properly.
8. Make the use of an example
Answering a question in plain language might get boring, and when you answer in plain language, you can speak for a certain time. This can become boring for the listener, and they may not take interest as they think your answer is solely a product of your thinking without the support of any facts.
Therefore, try to present your answer in the story form. Use examples to attract the attention of your listener and engage them with your storytelling. Storytelling is an essential skill.
You don’t just need this skill to entertain your kids, but you also use this skill to enhance your presentation in front of your colleagues and bosses.
9. Always be honest
Whether you know the answer or don’t know the answer, always be honest. Sometimes, you might be asked about your opinion on something, and you might don’t agree with your boss. In such a situation, you should be honest and present your view and give proper reasons why you feel this way.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a solution on the spot and think there is somebody else who can help you provide a better solution.
In this type of situation, you should be honest and ask for time to come back with a potential solution.
Your honesty will be appreciated; therefore, don’t try to come up with a lame solution just to save yourself from the situation. Your honesty will strengthen the trust of others in you and improve your image in the eyes of others.
10. Prepare to answer “What-ifs”
Preparing in advance is a little tricky. You will never know what kind of questions you would be asked in your next meeting with your manager. However, preparing to answer questions that are likely to be asked in a meeting will be beneficial for you.
Therefore, when you prepare for such questions, don’t forget to prepare for supposed what-if questions that might be followed by the main question.
To answer what-if questions, one requires in-depth knowledge about the topic, and knowledge can only be acquired by spending extra time on researching for the knowledge.
11. Don’t be defensive
Many people get defensive when out of all present in the meeting they are asked to answer.
It becomes intimidating for them as one wrong answer or the inability to answer the question might ruin their whole efforts of preparing for the presentation. If you come across such a scenario, remember that the situation is not as hopeless as you think.
If you have prepared well and have confidence in your knowledge and experience, you can use it to get the upper hand over all other presents in the meeting. Being defensive is not the solution.
Even if you don’t know the answer, you can ask for time to come up with the solution later and can move ahead with the presentation.
12. Pay attention to non-verbal cues
Being under stressful situations, people usually become so conscious of themselves that they forget to pay attention to the body language of their listener. Remember that non-verbal cues are as important as verbal cues.
Getting hints from the non-verbal cues, you can modify your speech. Non-verbal cues play as important a role as verbal cues in the success of business interactions and other critical business deals.
13. Learn when to stop talking
Speaking non-stop will not get you anywhere. You might end up losing the interest of your audience. Remember that people actively listen to you for the first 20 seconds when you start talking and lose interest in the next 30-40 seconds.
Therefore, make sure that rather than talking non-stop, you must use the tricks to bring back the attention of your audience.
14. Learn to organize your answer
People get nervous and tend to go blank because of numerous ideas running in their minds. When you are asked a question in a meeting, that means the questioner is looking for some precise information or direct answer rather than a full-fledged speech.
Therefore, being an organized speaker is one of the essential skills which is worth practicing. Practice to organize your thoughts quickly and to limit your answer from one to two points maximum.
How to become better at thinking on your feet?
In the above section of the article, you learned about the tips that can help you think on the spot. Even though thinking on your feet happens at the moment, you can still prepare yourself to become better at it.
In this section, I will share a few practices that you can do to become better at thinking on your feet.
1. Make the use of thinking game
Thinking on your feet is an important skill, and one should practice this skill to become successful in the present competitive world. Even though one can improve this skill by experience. However, you don’t want to miss any opportunity just because of your unpreparedness.
Thinking games is one solution that will help you to become good at thinking fast. You take the help of someone who is more experienced than you and ask them to ask your random questions and practice to answer the question within 60 seconds.
2. Be up-to-date
Knowledge is the key to success. If you are not up-to-date with what is happening in your organization or the industry, it is difficult for you to be good at thinking on your feet.
Keep your facts up-to-date so that you can use them whenever the need arises.
3. Learn from the experience of others
There will be many instances when you will get the opportunity to observe others answering quickly. You can take inspiration from them and learn how they prepare themselves to respond promptly.
In addition to this, you can watch conferences online and learn how people handle unexpected questions on the spot.
Thinking on your feet means to think quickly. Thinking on your feet is one of the most important skills that one should have in the present competitive world. However, this skill can be acquired through practice and experience.
Having the ability to remain calm in tough situations and organizing your thoughts before your speak can help you become better at this skill.