How many of you have been in a meeting where your boss explains an idea to you and ends it with a ‘Do you think this is a good idea?‘ How often have you said a mindless ‘yes?.’
Well, we all have been here, and we can’t blame ourselves much. It’s because most of the decision-making questions that people ask us is ‘close-ended.’ The expected answers are either a yes or a no, good or bad, like or dislike, etc. People say that your first reaction is the most honest, but often that’s not the case.
As Derek Sivers aptly says, ‘Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s a knee-jerk emotional response to something in your past.’
That’s why it’s necessary to practice slow thinking. I believe that most of us are slow thinkers by nature. But under pressure, we succumb to fast, mindless thinking.
What can we do about it?
Here’s what you can do the next time you experience a situation where you’re asked to voice your views immediately. Let’s take the same example. When your boss asks you if something is a good idea, take a pause, and think about it.
Ask yourself what you like about the idea. This open-ended question will help you understand how much you know and value the idea. If specific aspects of the idea stand out to you, highlight that. And follow it up with a, “However, I’m not clear about some parts of the idea. Can I take some time and discuss it offline?‘
Even if it’s a time-bound decision, people will be okay to give at least a couple of hours to help you process the information.
But if you know, it is, in fact, a terrible idea. Instead of responding to it with a ‘no,’ ask open-ended questions that will lead your boss to think about the consequences. And you can still buy in some time to discuss this offline. But never succumb to a yes or a no, good or bad, etc. Be very specific.
Another tip – if you lead meetings in the future, do a bit of context-setting a few days before the meeting. Maybe share a rough draft of the idea in a document. And during the meeting, always resort to asking open-ended questions and let your participants know that it’s alright to take their time and get back to you on the idea.
It’s not about being a fast or slow thinker. It’s about being valuable.