After a long day of meetings the host goes around the room asking for final thoughts, and you’re coming up blank.
Or maybe it’s an e-mail you need to respond to, and you are expected to have something to contribute.
It happens. Sometimes you’ve just got nothing.
That’s how I felt this week about my weekly blog post. It was Wednesday afternoon and I still had no idea what to write about. I had nothing. And then I realized – having nothing is something we should talk about. After all, we’re expected to have an opinion. We’re expected to contribute. I’ve never seen anyone get ahead by not having anything to say.
So what should you do when you are coming up blank?
1. Start talking. Now, I will caution you, this doesn’t work for everyone (and you know who you are). I’m not talking about babbling, or meaningless chatter. But there are those who rise to the occasion once they start talking (and you know who you are).
2. Agree (or disagree) with what someone else said. This is also an opener to start talking. Once you put it out there, the idea will form.
3. If appropriate, ask if you can take time to think about it – but don’t take too long. Respond later the same day, if you can.
4. Start writing. If it’s an e-mail you need to respond, just start writing. There is no penalty for having a lousy opinion on paper until it’s sent. Once you start writing, chances are the answer will come. Just be sure to edit before you hit send.
5. Start with the conclusion. If you know how to end your point – start there, then back into the why, how, and other supporting points.
6. Prepare in advance. You’ve seen people employ this strategy. There is always someone in the room that has a question to ask or a point to make – no matter what. It’s not necessary to do this all the time, but you don’t want to come up short when you’re the subject matter expert.
7. Compliment the team. This works extremely well in a group meeting or work session. If you’re asked for a thought or opinion, and you are happy with what’s been done and said so far, play the teamwork card, and thank the group or specific individuals. Everyone likes a team player.
What are your suggestions for what to do when you’ve got nothing? What has worked for you?