We all ask and answer dozens of questions in a single day. “Did you find everything you were looking for?” asks the grocery checker at Trader Joe’s. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” asks the Sprint representative when I call with an inquiry. I want to respond with a question of my own: “Why are you ending your sentence with a preposition?” But instead, I simply respond, “yes, thank you,” or “no, thank you.”
But what about the more difficult questions? And what if they’re posed by someone we know well, interact with on a daily basis, love, and respect?
When I was a kid and asked my mom if I could buy something I really, really needed; i.e., wanted, she generally answered with the ubiquitous parental “maybe.” I’m sure most of you will agree, that the parental “maybe” almost always meant, “no.” Yes?
I’m not trying to confuse or annoy you. I’m about to make my point. Usually, we reply to questions with one of three words: yes, no, or maybe. But here’s another option: I’d like to think about it. That’s a perfectly acceptable response to a difficult question. It doesn’t mean yes, it doesn’t mean no, and it doesn’t mean maybe. Instead, it means I respect you and the question so much that I do not want to answer hastily. It deserves a bit more time, so I’m going to answer after I’ve given it some thought. In a perfect world, I’d quickly calculate how much thinking time I’m going to need, and let the difficult-question-asker know when I’m planning on responding. Regardless, I haven’t ever encountered a negative reaction after I’ve asked for some thinking time.
When I take the time to think before answering a difficult question, I never regret my response.
Mediators are trained to help people in conflict take thinking time. If you need some guidance to help resolve a conflict, please give me a call to set up an appointment. I never charge for an initial consultation.