5 tips for thinking on your feet in the workplace

The number one rule for improvisation comedy is the phrase: “Yes, and”. You always need to be taking any new information positively then adding to it. Never knock down an idea because you think your one serves a better purpose and then some. Thinking on your feet in the workplace follows the same basic principle.

We’re sticklers here for the power of organisation but there will be some times, scratch that, loads of times where you’ll have to think fast and act faster to avoid missing an opportunity or making a mistake.

Anyone can blurt out nonsense when the pressure is on but there’s a gift to sounding totally prepared even when you’re the exact opposite. The Muse spoke to some expert career coaches and found some premium advice for thinking on your feet.

1. Focus on one thing

The number one thing people are thinking about during intense encounters is themselves. How they’re coming off, whether they sound good, whether they look good etc. As a result the content of what you’re saying suffers.

2. Repeat the question

Not only does this show that you care about giving the right answer (or that you weren’t listening) but it always gives you some time to formulate a thoughtful and correct response.

3. Take some time

If the co-workers or clients are aware this is a pressured situation for you, they should appreciate you spending a little time to breathe and think. In fact, using the phrase: “let me take a minute to think about it” makes you look so much better than giving a half-baked answer right away.

4. Give your opinion

If you can’t give an educated answer to a query, give your opinion. It takes very little brainpower to put out whatever is sitting at the front of your skull. Even if your idea is totally shot down, at least you gave it a try.

5. Avoid getting defensive

Similar to what we were saying early about improv comedy, you should never react with a negative slant. Be forthcoming with any challenges and move forward even if it hurts your ego – boohoo.