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Sooner or later, a colleague is going to ask you a question to which you really don’t know the answer. In other words, your colleague has put you out on a limb.

So how do you have the confidence to tell people what you think rather than what you know?

Here are some helpful ideas on how to effectively communicate from the limb:

  1. Say it like you mean it: Speak with clarity and don’t use a lot of words. The more words you use and the faster you talk, people will think you’re trying to hide something or cover something up.
  2. Begin your response by asking for permission: When people give you permission to express your ideas, that’s the beginning of the buy-in process to consider your response. For example, ‘I have an idea about why your project team has not been able to deliver what you expected. Can I tell you what I’m thinking?”
  3. Lead with the truth: Don’t worry about how your colleague will react to your answer. If you try to politicize or soften what you think may be a tough message, your ideas may not come out the way you intended. Or even worse, your colleague may misinterpret your message and miss the whole point.
  4. State your idea and then stop talking. Give your colleague a chance to digest what you just said and then wait for them to respond. As much as we would love to think that others hang on to our every word, we all need time to think, process, and react.
  5. Avoid the “Pile On”: If you’re with a team, don’t be the second (or even worse the third) person to answer to the same question unless you’re specifically asked to respond. We’ve all been in situations where a colleague asks a thought-provoking question and everyone wants to add their thoughts. This is the “Pile On” effect and may make your colleague feel the team is not being truthful. Or worse, it can sound like the team is ganging up on the person who raised the question.

As a technology consultant, you’re often working on breakthrough solutions that are at the leading edge of the market. Sooner or later, a colleague is going to ask you for guidance and direction to a place where you’ve never been before. Although this can be uncomfortable for many of us, go for it! This is the value we bring to our colleagues and clients.

To continue the conversation, contact us.