With the advent of modern communication modes such as text messages, instant messages, Twitter updates, and a myriad of others I may not have even heard of yet, it seems that with every gigabyte of data we get further and further away from the basics of communication and further from truly understanding each other.
Communication, be it personal or professional, has taken a sharp downward turn in recent years, simply because we may think we don’t have time or energy to “waste” on understanding and being understood. This can be detrimental in your personal life, but especially in your professional life. Sometimes I think the only solution is to get back to the basics. How can we learn to be better communicators? By asking questions? Great! But equally important to communication is the ability to effectively answer questions asked of us.
You don’t have to be an oracle when it comes to answering people’s questions on the job. Just give each inquiry—whether from a boss, co-worker or client—your best reply. Follow these tips to giving your best answer each time:
1. Understand the question. Miscommunication often occurs when you don’t pay close attention to what is being discussed. Make sure you understand what you’re being asked, and clarify the question if you’re confused.
2. Don’t babble. If you know the answer to what is being asked, provide it quickly and succinctly rather than spending a lot of time discussing irrelevant information.
3. Remember you’re the expert. Don’t be intimidated when a manager who has more responsibilities (but less knowledge of the daily working of your position) asks you a question. Back your answer up with relevant facts and details, written and otherwise.
4. Keep your opinions to yourself. If you’re asked for a personal viewpoint, give it. Otherwise, stick to the facts. Refrain from adding anecdotal observations to your answer.
5. Don’t wing it. If you can’t immediately answer a question, let the questioner know how soon you can get back to him or her (the sooner the better).
6. Don’t be critical. Never answer a question with a condescending remark like, “You don’t know that?”
7. Admit when you don’t know the answer. Know when you don’t know, but make an extra effort to refer the questioner to sources you know can be of better help.
It is important to remember your answers are important and fundamental to establishing your credibility. It is equally important to remember to listen, not to just wait for your turn to talk, but truly listen in order to provide the appropriate answer. Getting back to the basics of communication is more important than ever in our digital world. Mindful consideration of such skills will separate you from the pack, help you establish yourself as an authority in your role, and let your talent shine.
Grete Ruder, Celebrity Staff Recruiter
About Grete Ruder
Grete joined Celebrity Staff in 2005 and has helped build its Kansas City office from the ground up. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Kansas, has served as Chamber Champion for the KC Chamber of Commerce for two years, and has completed numerous training sessions on professional cover letter and resume writing.