Thinking Fast When You Are Put in A Spot

There is a meeting going on. You are making a presentation. Or maybe you are speaking, making a really good point, all eyes on you. Then someone makes a polite interruption and asks a question. It sounds like a good question but you don’t know what to answer.

Or picture another scenario. You are to make an announcement. An important but somewhat of an uncomfortable one; you never know with these pandemic times. Before you know it, there is a barrage of questions and doubts. You feel flustered.

Scenario number three- an interview. A panel of experts sitting in front you behind a desk, and you are sitting in front of them in a chair, with copies of your resume under the said experts’ intense scrutiny. One of them, the one who looks really experienced and intimidating looks up and asks you something. (Need we say more?)

The kind of scenarios described above demand answers from you. They demand quick decision making. Sometimes, they demand a quick yes or no.

In other words, they demand you to think quickly on your feet. They demand you to not jump up in panic.

So, let us, ahem, jump into some strategies which can help you to think on your feet, when you are put in a tough spot and some fast thinking is needed from you.

Be Prepared:

We all have heard this so often at this point owing to the pandemic that it’s almost tiring. It has become a cliché. But things become cliches for a reason- the motto to be as prepared as possible is a proven advice, which works.

When you do the prep for any situation which you know has the potential to put you in a tough spot, prepare in advance. Anticipate the kind of questions you might have to answer. Anticipate the kind of responses or reactions you might get, and think of plans to combat that in advance.

Even if you might not be able to think of answers straightaway, just keeping these worse case scenarios in mind will keep you mentally prepared, and you won’t feel as flustered as you might if you were unprepared.

Pause:

To put this very simply, and once again in cliched terms- do not panic.

Like the advice to be prepared, the advice to not panic is overused, and perhaps a little poorly explained.

When you feel a flurry of questions coming at you, listen, and pause. It is sort of natural to feel the urge to either answer everyone, but that only makes us feel more flustered and chalk up incomplete and often incohesive answers.

As psychologist Daniel Kahneman tells in his book ‘Thinking Fast, Slowly’, pausing gives our ‘thinking brain’ time to…think.  Panicking makes us start thinking of responses, leaving us little time to think. Pausing makes us listen and gives us time to think.

Rephrase:

A question has been asked and you are not sure how to answer that. You paused, thought a bit, but still can’t seem to think clearly. What to do now? Rephrase the question, and ask them if this is what they meant. A rephrasing from your side means you add extra information, a sort of a counter question, which makes them pause and think. Rephrasing also helps you buy some time to think.

Moreover, when you rephrase, chances are they would tell you what they mean, and might add in some extra information from their side as well, which will help you to think of a response.

Admit If You Don’t Know:

Trying to think of a response for a question you were not prepared for is one thing; trying to make sense of a question you didn’t understand is one thing. However, trying to answer a question when you just don’t anything about its subject is unwise.

When you are put in a spot where you genuinely can’t think of a response, and any amount of extra time or information will not be helpful, just admit that you don’t know how to answer that question.

Just as panicking and trying to answer everyone will lead to more panic, answering when you don’t know the answer will lead you into deeper circles of confusion.

Professional life, and the decorum associated with it comes with its set of discomforts and situations where you will need to think on your feet quickly. Whether it is an interview, a presentation, a make or break deal, evading would not be an option. But what we can do, from what we saw in the points above is to direct our energy into looking for solutions, rather than trying to focus on the unpleasantness of the situation.

Taking Care of Ourselves in Times of Gloom

managing the post festival blues, seasonal blues, pandemic blues

It is no surprise that we are working under tremendous pressure in these times. Some of us are tired of the ‘permahours’ of working from home, where the line between work hours and hours to relax is blurring with every passing day. Some of us are working in the office, with literal shields around us, desperately hoping for the well-being of one and all. And then there are those of us, with the best (worst) of both worlds, shuttling our time between offices and working from home.

As if this wasn’t stressful enough, we are approaching a slump in the festivities after weeks of quiet and happy celebrations.

This is a classic recipe for a spike in the stress levels, overwork and overburden. Before one can realise, exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of low self-efficacy could creep in, leading to an eventual burnout, ultimately affecting the cognitive and physical health.

Winter is on its way, and the sun sets early, the darkness comes in before one can even begin to enjoy the colours of the sunset. It’s a bad combination of the pandemic blues, the seasonal blues and the post festive blues! So, what can we do in these times to take care of ourselves? Let us quickly take a look!

The Art of Staying Connected:

These days, staying connected consistently, and not waiting until the last moment when one begins to feel isolated, is indeed an art. One has to be connected in just about the right amount, so as to keep a check on the near and dear ones, to have a sense of (virtual) community and to be communicative when it comes to work. And one has to be disconnected in just about the right amount too, so as to not end up working 24/7, to not have a Zoom fatigue and not make the notification sound a trigger of anxiety.

The latter part is where most of us are struggling.

Fix a time and make it a point to stop checking notifications related to work beyond that timeslot. If possible, decide upon a code with your colleagues about high priority messages which everyone should use in case of work-related emergencies. Life can become easier when we know which messages and emails one should pay attention to immediately and which ones we can save for later.

Ask and Clarify:

Communication is indeed the key, for a well-functioning relation. This includes your relationship with your work. If you feel unclear about a task, ask. If you feel you are not sure how to go about an objective, ask.

Often, because of a lack of clarity in our understanding of a task, we end up spending an inordinate amount of time on it, leading to overwork and overburden. We tell ourselves, ‘I’d rather do extra work than fall short.’ A great attitude to get stuff done; a not so great attitude to reduce stress or prevent a burnout. 

A way to avoid overworking is to know exactly what you need to work on.

Setting Your Goals for the Day:

When it comes to aspects about self-care, avoiding stressful blues and preventing burnouts, it becomes necessary to set goals of all kinds, and not just the professional ones.

So yes, your to-do list for the day might include getting in touch with that client who has been (im)patiently waiting since a couple of weeks now. You might have to work on an agenda that was fixed in a meeting. You might have some coordination to do and a team to put together for that next project. Prioritising is indeed necessary, and we probably know tons of techniques by now.

But your to-do list should also include getting in touch with an old friend you have been reminiscing about. It should also include indulging in a session of watching your favourite movie, putting up a relaxing playlist to listen to after work, and patting yourself in the back for all that you managed to accomplish in the day, no matter how trivial it might be. Goals about being productive and goal about self-care can, and should, go hand-in-hand.

It might not always be possible to avoid overwork, overtime and hectic schedules. Being stressed out is a part of life. Pandemic-, post-festival-, seasonal- or just Monday blues creep up without our knowledge, suddenly and inevitably. But how we respond is in our hands.

And finally, on a lighter note, it is also in our hands to turn around the meaning of ‘feeling blue.’ Blue is the colour of calm, the colour of that flowy music, the colour of the still and relaxing ocean, and what’s more, it’s the colour of India’s sporting jerseys! We sure can turn the blues into something fun if we want to.

Festivities at Workplace in Times of COVID19

The festive months in India have begun. Until last year, October-November used to mark the beginning of a time when there would be fewer and fewer dull moments in the office. Plans for Navratri and Durga Puja, plans for Diwali would be under full swing, with the workplace staying decked up all through these couple of months. In the crisp pre-winter air, dressing up, having good food and having office parties was something many of us looked forward to. A lull for a few weeks gave us some post-festival blues, but before we had the time to get over it, Christmas and New Year would come next! But now, we have a different situation. The big C is still here. We thought it would go away, but it hasn’t. Although a lot of us are back in the office, it is just not the same.

Forget post-festival blues, we might get festival blues now! After all, how does one celebrate when there are so many precautions to be taken, so many guidelines to be followed and amidst the many pieces of unpleasant news we hear on daily basis?

While precautions and guidelines will need to be followed, we can still celebrate the festive season in our own little safe ways. There is scope for a socially distanced party. Here are some more some ideas to celebrate festivals with your co-workers amidst the pandemic.

Let us take a look!

Have A Virtual Party:

By now, most of us would be familiar with virtual meetings and virtual conferences and virtual interviews. Might as well get familiar with a virtual party!

When one has been using virtual platforms for all things work, it is easy to forget that those very platforms can be used as a way to have fun.

Organizing virtual events where talented employees perform can be a fun and a safe way to have a party. Send out a nice and blingy virtual invite, fix a festive dress-code, fix the slots and we have a talent evening right there! Singing, mimicry, stand up comedy, poetry…anything as long as everyone is having fun!

Have A Competition….At Your Own Homes:

Few of the many things people might be missing are the decorations, the Rangolis, and in many cases, the in-office Rangoli competitions.

Well, who said we need to be together to compete?

Employees can decide upon a theme, decide who should be the judge, maybe even fix the colours they are allowed to use, pick a corner of their house and create the Rangolis! Then they can upload the photos on the company’s social media pages, or even just share amongst the colleagues. And here we have a full fledged Rangoli competition!

If one is missing the decorations, one might even have a decoration contest. Employees may pick a corner of their homes, decorate it with all the creativity, share the photos, and again, similar to the Rangoli competition, can share photos and get into a fun competition!

The ideas are endless when we realise a lot can be done together, even when we are apart!

Gifts and More Gifts!

Thanks to this very convenient technology of online shopping and shipping, gifting and buying gifts is still something that has not been affected too much amidst the new normal.

  A simple thing like receiving a lovely festive hamper at one’s doorstep can be a huge mood booster. (Maybe the winners of all those virtual competitions can get an extra package delivered to their doorstep!)

It is thus such simple ideas which can help us feel festive in the new normal. It is time we make an even better use of technology. It is time we make a festive use of technology!

One might feel there is not much to celebrate; that the festivals are just not the same this time; that everything reminds of the times we are living in. But as we have talked about in one of our previous articles, celebrating the little things in little ways can go a long way in keeping up everyone’s spirits.

Sukkot Week and the Stories of Gratitude: What You See Is What You Are Grateful For

Sukkot week is going on! Some of us our readers who have been following us would know how we are giving you all stories to ponder over gratitude and counting blessings. We will quickly tell what Sukkot is to our new readers. Sukkot is a weeklong Jewish festival, celebrated with a purpose to be grateful about our blessings, in all forms.

Stories provide us an outsider’s perspective, often helping us see the big picture in our own life as well! Something similar happened to one of our readers:

I was talking to a friend of mine, rather, complaining.

I will jump straight to our phone conversation (how else are we to talk these days?)

Let us call my friend Mr. H.

‘I am so fed up of this situation. It’s more upsetting because I finally felt like I had a plan. I had saved up enough to invest in a start-up. My wife was going to get a better job as well, somewhere closer to our house so we could spend more time as a family together. We had also seen a new, better house, in our same neighbourhood. Things seemed to be falling into place, finally. And then BOOM! Then came the pandemic, and I am stuck where I was. ‘

My friend H was listening to me patiently.

‘Let me tell you a story.’ I was about to go off on him. Here I was telling him my problems, and he wants to become a storyteller here! At the same time, I was curious. H is a smart guy. ‘Go ahead’. I told him, almost flatly.

H started his story,

‘There was once a little boy who loved to play football. His family was sort of below average in terms of income- they did well with the minimalistic lifestyle they had and spent only when something was genuinely needed. The little boy who loved to play football wanted those special boots all the kids in his neighbourhood wore, he wanted the football studs.

He asked his parents. The shoes were quite expensive! They told him that they would not be able to buy those for him immediately. Maybe, in a few months.

The boy was sad and angry at the same time.

Why did his family not have the riches? Why could they not afford a pair of good shoes?

He tried to ask his parents once more. Twice, thrice during the week, but it was the same response.

“No.”

 “Maybe sometime in the future.”

Dejected, the little boy went on his way to the playground. It was evening, and time to play with his friends, something he looked forward to, but today, the air felt heavy and gloomy. The sunny evening seemed to have a cast of grey over it.

Suddenly, he saw a car stop over at one of the houses on the way. From it, a woman quickly came down and opened the door of one of the seats at the back. The little boy who loved football tried to see who the woman was trying to help get down the car. It was a boy with clutches. The boy who loved football saw a boy with clutches, struggling to do a simple activity. ‘

And with this, H concluded his story and paused.

It was my time to speak now.

‘I understand now what you mean. My life is still beautiful, even with all its problems. I have a lovely family. A comfortable house. Food to eat, and everyone I know is safe. I think I need to be more grateful for what I have.’

‘My friend is wise’, said H. I could feel him smiling through the phone.

I could hear the song ‘kuchh log hai juto ko rote, kuchh logo ke paun nahi hote’ in the background. H had started to play this song on his laptop as were talking and I could hear it. He has a weird way of storytelling.

Through my conversation with H, I also realised how gratitude is all about attracting more abundance. The more grateful you are, the more happiness you will get. The more gratitude you practice, the more things you will find to be thankful about.

And with this, we wind up our series of Sukkot week articles!

Sukkot Week and the Stories of Gratitude: The Vision Of 2020

Those of you who have read our previous article know it is the Sukkot week! Those of you who just joined us, let us tell you quickly what Sukkot is all about. Sukkot is a weeklong Jewish festival, celebrated with a purpose to be grateful about our blessings, in all forms. And all through the Sukkot week, we will bring you some stories and anecdotes of gratitude.

One of our readers shares her story:

Quite a few of us must have made New year Resolutions. After all, it was 2020, the year which was to give us 20-20 vision! The landmark year, dawning onto our lives.

Little did we know that the only resolution, the only goal of 2020 would be: Staying Alive. (Can you all hear the song in the background?)

Nine months have passed since. Dear readers would have realised by now how important it is to stay fit and alive. Nothing more, nothing less.

To take a step further, some of us might also have realised how important it is to thank God, for keeping us and our loved ones in good health.

This realisation did not come to me easily and effortlessly. Like most of the people who would be reading this, 2020 has given me a fair share of problems, the latest being a health issue my dear family member faced recently.

My mother-in-law recently had a hip replacement surgery. I have been tending to her since the past two weeks. It has been tiring, and it is difficult to see a loved one bed-ridden like this.

 One night, while turning sides, I had an epiphany of sorts. In my sleeplessness, I realised how fortunate I am to have working limbs; the ability to do this simple act is in itself a blessing!

How fortunate I am to not be bed-ridden. And how fortunate I am to be able to be there for my mother-in-law in these tough times, to be able to look after her. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been otherwise!

Life is full of troubles. And many times, we are the ones who are caught in a storm of difficulties. Some readers might point how it is much easier to be grateful when you are in a good place, when you have all the comforts and conveniences.

What about those who are themselves unwell, unfit or in a difficult position? How are they to remain grateful, and what for?

The point is to have an attitude of gratitude. The point is to be grateful about even the tiniest of things, the seemingly inconsequential things. 

When life seems to be full of troubles, with clouds of storm looming over, be grateful for the lessons you might learn. Be grateful how strong you will emerge.

When life seems to be going smoothly, be grateful for the bliss and the comfort.

An attitude of gratitude is all about being grateful, whether we are in a good situation or an unpleasant one.

The pandemic might have wrecked our plans; it might have disturbed our routine, and it might have amplified our problems. That is all the more reason to count your blessings.

It is all about appreciating even the faint silver linings of the cloud. Or even appreciating the cloud because it is shielding us from the harshness of the sun perhaps!