These days everybody's looking for answers.
What's the right way to . . .?
How can I . . .?
What do I need to do to . . .?
When you get asked questions all the time (or even some of the time) it's awfully tempting to think you're supposed to know the answers! After all, people wouldn't be asking you these questions if they didn't think you knew the answers. And if you stop giving the answers, then they'll stop asking the questions, and then you no longer qualify as a full-fledged guru.
Lately I've found three answers that make the most sense to me. I try to remember to use them as often as I can, when I'm out giving a talk or just chatting with friends over dinner.
When the question comes your way ("What do you think we should do about . . .?" "Do you have a solution for . . .?), here are the three best answers, ever:
1. I don't really know.
2. What do you think?
3. I'm still thinking about that--I'll get back to you once I've done some more work on it.
Why are they the three best answers, ever? Because they're honest, humble, and hospitable. They invite discussion, they create dialog, and they open up discussion.
Try it next time: I don't really know; what do you think?; I'll get back to you on that.
All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb