3 Impromptu Response Structures to Help You Be Organised and Structured
The Old Dog Story and Thinking On the Spot
This Is an old story that serves as a modern day reminder of how impactful the simple act of breathing is in enabling clarity of thinking.
An old dog starts chasing rabbits and, before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch. The old dog thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep s… now!”
Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old dog exclaims loudly: “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?”
Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him, and he slinks away into the trees. Phew!,” says the panther, “That was close! That old dog nearly had me!”
Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes. The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther. The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”
Now, the old dog sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old dog says… “Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!”
Moral of this story — Don’t mess with the old dogs! or wisdom only come with age and experience! …. or does it?
Nah, of course not.
“Awareness, not age, leads to wisdom.” — Publius Syrus
There are also techniques that can help you to relax when under pressure and to think on the spot.
3 Techniques to Help You Relax When Under Pressure and to Think on the Spot
- Breathing — this may sound obvious, but deepening and lengthening your breath stimulates a relaxation response which creates a feeling of calm. That sense of calm holds the key to opening your mind to clearer thinking.
2. Listen and Pause — whether that’s to your own instinct of needing to know what to do or say next as the old sheepdog did, or whether it’s critical to the success of your answer in situations when perhaps you’re being interviewed, or you’re facilitating a Q and A, or you’re delivering bad news, for example, a company restructure which is going to have a significant impact on the WorkLives of the individuals present.
Really listening allows you to be completely present in the moment and is critical to the success of your action or answer. Then pause before you respond — as long as you don’t have a look of panic on your face, you’ll look pensive and respectful.
Pause even if you know the action to be taken or the answer to be communicated, especially if you feel under attack. Carrying out an action or blurting out a response without thinking it through will make you appear insecure and anxious. A thoughtful pause reminds you to slow down and collect yourself and your thoughts.
3. Organise — When having to think on the spot or having to respond to an impromptu question, the idea is to structure your response for clarity, brevity and impact.
3 Impromptu Response Structures to Help You Be Organised and Structured
By learning a few impromptu response structures, your actions and answers will always be organised and confident. Here are three structures for you to try out:
Impromptu Response Structures:
- PREP: Position, Reason, Example, Position. In this model, first state the position of the topic, and then you state your reason for taking that position. Next, you provide an example or story that supports your reason. Finally, you summarise by restating your position.
2. PEP: Point, Example, Point. In this one, you start by making a point or stating a key idea or objective. Then you give an example or story that proves your point. Then you wrap up by restating the main idea or your main point. When you’re short on time, this is the way to go.
3. Divide and Conquer: This requires you to think quickly of a way to divide up your response, choosing between past, present and future problem-solving solutions:
- Past: solutions that have worked before
- Present: being completely in the moment to be able to react in time with a solution that will work in the here and now – as the old dog did!
- Future: gathering intelligence to anticipate what the future holds, supporting you in being forearmed with informed solutions.
Then practice these techniques, because as we all know, practice makes perfect. You can do this by applying these techniques to everyday situations both in work and your life outside of work — maybe you want your child to eat more vegetables — begin by telling them this (stating your position) your reason is, of course, because you want them to grow up to be big and strong, then you tell them the story of the big green giant who ….. (you know where I’m going with this) and then you restate your position.
Practising the techniques when the situation or questions are easy, and you’re not under pressure means you can learn the structures quickly.
Then when you are put on the spot, you can easily relax, listen, organise and respond. Whether you’re attending a meeting, interviewing for a job, presenting a proposal, selling an idea, handling a question and answer session, delivering bad news, or dealing with a panther! Being able to respond clearly and concisely at a moment’s notice is a critical professional skill.
This story was originally published on 24/4/21. I needed to republish it to add updates and also to tell you
… The Continuing Story …
The pandemic brought about a change in my WorkLife from delivering in-person individual coaching sessions and group workshops to creating resources to help people self direct their WorkLife learning.
In the last three years, I’ve published 30 books and over 200 stories.
Each book and each story is based on real life struggles and successes that people have encountered in their WorkLife. They also detail the exercises that helped navigate through these situations, which are set as assignments for readers to adapt to their WorkLife situations and learning needs.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.
My inspiration for creating my work comes from a lifelong passion for learning. My work has taught me that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you is your learning.
School of WorkLife Guiding Statement: To create resources that are helpful, insightful and inspiring in helping people to pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.
The resources I create will help you take ownership of self directing your learning in your own space and in your own time.
School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time.
What is Self Directed Learning?
Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint.
Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning
You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
How To Embrace The Superpower of Self-Awareness
How To Fine-Tune The Superpower of Observation
How To Be Creative in Your Thinking
Tap The School of WorkLife Book Series to view the complete collection of books. From here, you can tap on each individual title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
Founder of School of WorkLife, Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning. These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies. which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club.
That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.