How To Think On Your Feet?
Thinking on your feet is probably one of the most useful skills you will ever need to succeed in either school or your career. If you can demonstrate the ability to respond to any questions clearly and thoughtfully, you will come across as not only confident but also intelligent as well. And most importantly, you will be able to handle situations such as interviews, sales presentations, or business negotiations with relative ease.
On the other hand, this is also one of the most difficult skills to master, because your mind has to manage several tasks at once which may include:
- Comprehend what is being asked by listening attentively;
Structure your response mentally;
Clearly articulate your message while maintaining good eye contact;
Manage your anxiety level.
The best way to improve your skill is through practice. And here are five ideas which will help you get started.
Try to be relaxed.
This is actually easier said than done. Nerve spares no one because it is deeply engrained in the brain as the result of thousands of years of evolution. Everyone gets nervous in interviews or public speaking opportunities. When the adrenalin rush begins, it cannot be stopped by conscious effort.
There are some breathing techniques which can help ease the effect of nervousness such as the deep diaphragmatic breathing. But ultimately you will have to learn to act despite all the unpleasant body experiences such as heart palpitation and dry mouth.
The “Stall Tactic”.
When you are being challenged by an unexpected question, time is often a crucial factor. Because if you don’t answer fairly quickly, you may give the impression that you have gone mentally blank. Of course it is quite acceptable to pause for a few second while thinking about your response, even though the silence may feel quite awkward.
To buy yourself more time, you can paraphrase the question then check with the person who asked the question if what you have heard is correct. If you feel it is hard to do, simply ask the question to be repeated. Either way, you will gain some valuable seconds which could give you some insight to proceed with your answer.
Sticking to the format of “one point, then one supporting information”.
When you are unsure about the question, your mind tends to wander around without a clear direction to follow. This is because your brain can think much faster than you can communicate verbally. Naturally, this creates confusion not only for yourself but the people on the receiver end of the communication. To avoid this situation, it is best to only stick to one point, then explain it fully using examples before moving on to the next point.
The free speaking exercise.
This exercise is particularly helpful if you are having trouble expressing yourself. This can be done either alone or with someone else. The process is quite simple:
- First set a timer for 5 minutes;
Pick a random word from a dictionary preferably a noun;
Make up a story or short speech using the word as the starting point.
You don’t need to be self-conscious during this exercise. Anything comes out of your mouth is acceptable. Be as creative as you can.
Join a Toastmaster club.
Toastmaster International is an international nonprofit educational organisation founded by the late Ralph C. Smedley nearly one hundred years ago. Its purpose is to help people develop better public speaking and communication skills.
Toastmaster International operates thousands of clubs world wide. Most likely there will be one club in your local community. Club members meet regularly and they have ample opportunity to practise off-the-cuff speeches at what are called the table topic sessions.
During a table topic session, club members are put into the “hot spot” and asked to respond to unexpected questions. Regular practice at the table topic sessions can definitely improve your ability to think on the spot quickly.