Should I Fake It Till I Make It? Presenting with Sincerity, Value, and Confidence
Should I lie if I do not know the answer to a question? This is a surprisingly common question we tend to receive, from both our kids and adult students when dealing with impromptu, on-the-spot scenarios. When faced with a high-stress difficult question or communication setting, one may be tempted to go for a quick answer to try and ease the pressure. A wrong or inaccurate answer, however, can be more damaging than initially thought!
But what constitutes a false answer? Some of us may resort to using broad, ‘fluffy’, obfuscating (think: confusing!) words to try and obscure our lack of knowledge. As some would say, if you can’t convince them, confuse them! Others may prefer to squeeze the limits of the “truth” or “accurate facts” in preference to a quick answer. For them, that quick response meets the immediate objective of dealing with the stressful communication setting – whatever happens next is out of the realm of their concern. Recalling the ‘viral’ potential of our communication settings, we believe that an honest answer trumps a fast, inaccurate one.
Pitfalls of a False Answer
While the pitfalls of a wrong answer may be clear to some, others may still find it a worthy gamble to take. We highlight three pitfalls of a false answer and how that can affect you as a communicator, especially if you are called out/exposed on your inaccurate answer!
First, a false answer is a sure-fire way to lose your speaker credibility. Once that disappears, it would be a challenge to try and recover from the damage done. We believe that it is always better and easier to create a positive first impression than it is to recover from a negative first impression. Once that trust in you as a speaker dissipates, you will find it an uphill battle to have your current or next audience believing in you!
Second, a rushed/false answer is a strong indicator of a speaker’s lack of confidence or preparation in their speech material. The immediate impression is that the speaker is unable to give a direct, accurate response because he/she is not prepared for that scenario. Instead of being perceived as a subject-matter expert, you risk turning into a discredited or untrustworthy speaker. This is not an impression you want to build as a budding speaker!
Third, apart from credibility, a strong communicator understands the importance of presenting with sincerity. An inaccurate/false response reveals a lack of belief in a speaker’s ability. Your audience members can tell if you are not out to give a valuable and sincere presentation, and you are more likely to lose them from the outset.
What Should I Do Then?
How then can we overcome this tendency? The solution to not providing a false/incorrect response is threefold – they can be summarised as: Internalise, Redirect, or Explain.
Internalise: Before committing to the mindset that you are unable to respond accurately to a question or communication scenario, ensure you have exhausted all means of understanding the issue. For example, a clarification or a request for an alternative phrasing may help you to understand the question better. You may find that the challenge did not lie in your inability to answer but the inability for the question to be clear instead. Through this, you will adopt the mentality of wanting to provide an answer that best fits the specific issues in the given question.
Redirect: Sometimes, our main issue with a question is our inability to respond to the specific issue. In such a scenario, it may be fruitful to redirect the question focus to a broader topic instead. For example, if someone were to ask you: “What do you think about the recent news on the Internet of Things (IoT)?”, you may not know what “IoT” means. Instead, you can redirect the question focus to a broader topic – “Unfortunately, I have not been following the news on IoT, but on the topic of technology, I have been reading up on machine learning. If that is alright, let me share more about what I discovered …” Instead of avoiding the topic completely, you allow the conversation to proceed, albeit on a tangential (but relevant) note.
Explain: Finally, remember that honesty is the best policy. If you are unsure about the correct response to a question, state that clearly and provide a reason as to why you are unable to provide a response. For example, explaining that something may be beyond your area of expertise may be preferable than trying to be an inaccurate faux expert. Beyond this (and for suitable settings), you may also request for an explanation of the relevant background to help you provide for a response. For example, if someone were to ask for your opinion on a news piece and you have not read the same article, request for an explanation of the background: “I have not read that article yet, but if you may share the background with me, I may be able to provide my quick views on it.”
You may try any (or a combination) of these methods to see what works for you in a high-stress, similar situation!
Deliver that Accurate Answer!
While it is uncontroversial that a communicator should not share falsehoods or untruths, it may be tempting to rush an answer. When that happens, our answer may turn out to be inaccurate or unclear, purely because of a careless approach to responding. The next time you face such a scenario, remember to try one of the methods we have shared above!
By The Way…
If you’re keen to take your public speaking skills & presentation skills (either business/corporate presentation / training for presentation to clients / kids in-class presentation) to the next level so that you may communicate and deliver speeches with greater flair and charisma, feel free to check out our offerings below!
For more about our Public Speaking Course for Adults :
If you’re also looking for Public Speaking Course for Kids / Children: