Grace under pressure is a critical skill for leaders. Tough situations inevitably involve questions you haven’t anticipated or would prefer not to answer. Being prepared for them will position you to respond more powerfully while reducing your stress level. Here are four good rules of thumb:
Answer only what was asked. Sometimes people are fishing for information. Keep your answers limited to exactly what someone has asked—if you choose to answer.
Tell the truth. It’s not necessary to be specific or explicit in your answer. However, it is important to answer honestly, especially if the answer is, “I don’t know.”
Maintain composure. Your reactions give information to others. If you are flustered or if you get angry, you are elevating the importance of the topic in their minds.
Provide context. Whenever possible, provide context within conversations to help others understand the inferences and conclusions you have drawn. If you have information that can help clarify a situation, share it.
Whether the topic is a business project, your personal job status, or what is happening in your company, the first step in preparation is to imagine the absolute worst question anyone could ever ask you. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be asked that question, but knowing you can handle it will give you confidence that you can handle any situation.