Answering questions as a teacher, as a public speaker and in everyday life

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Dance, Learning, Mental Reboot
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve run across a couple of instances in the last week of people answering questions in a quite different way than the straight line A-B direct response that one generally assumes a non-politician will use.

The first one was.  Wait for it.  Yes, my tap teacher.  I am interested in doing more practicing to music, so I asked him if he could share what the range of tempos was of the music was that he has played in class. He looked at me for a second and then said “Well, I could do that, but here’s how to find music that you’ll enjoy practicing to.”  And then went on to detail some ideas about playing with half time and double time and how certain techniques would be more easily practiced to swing music and others to music with a more regular 4/4 feel.  The aggregate of which was much more useful in picking out music to practice to than knowing the tempo of the music that he had played during class. The point being that as a teacher or mentor it’s often more important to answer the question that should have been asked than the literal question.

Another slightly different example of this was that we went to a reading by Jessica Hagy of her book How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps).  It was a fairly short reading followed by a pretty long question and answer.  Based on some of the rather dull questions that were asked, it could have been a quite a drag. But she did a great job of not necessarily answering the questions asked (sometimes she did), but making sure that fun stuff got said and kept the audience entertained.

I’ve found in both a mentor role and when running meetings in a work environment, thinking through a question enough to give a thoughtful (or useful) answer to a question that might not be fully formed in the mind of the person asking it is an essential part of those roles.

The counterpoint to this is that in real life when someone asks you if you want to go out for a drink (for instance), it’s not only not necessary but also not productive to try to figure out all the implications of such a question and give a broad answer.  Yes and No are generally perfectly acceptable answers to such a question.  Or possibly – “Not now, but would tomorrow work?”

I think the difference is that when one is in “expert mode” there often a concrete reasons to veer from the direct answer approach, but when in “real life mode” at best that’s just a whole bunch of energy wasted and at worst it’s frustrating to the person asking the question.  So here’s to not overthinking (raising the drink that he was smart enough to just say ‘yes’ to).

P.S. For those of you who know Ms. Hagy’s work or followed through to the link on the book, here’s my rather lame attempt at diagramming this post:

answers

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Where are you doing Tap? I was thinking of revisiting that one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s