I’m all for clarity of communication. I prefer it to innuendo, nuancing and saying one thing and really meaning another. I guess that would make me a poor business person or negotiator in some parts of the world. I’d have to work harder to make progress in those more inscrutable, deferential and stratified societies.

When I can give a simple answer to a simple question, I will. The trouble is, in much of our working lives – and a lot of our family or private lives – the questions are rarely simple, even though the answers might be.

That’s why my favourite answer  – the one I almost always fall back on – is ‘it depends.’ You’re not fudging your answer. You want to give a good answer so you use it to buy more time and seek qualification to the original question so that you can answer it as well as you can.

Here’s an example:

‘Should we hire this person?’

‘It depends.’

‘How so?’

‘Well, it depends on our plans for the role that this person would be filling. If we are looking for someone who has done the job before and who will hit the ground running, then yes I believe we should. If the role is a stepping stone to a more strategic role where someone is looking for ways to evolve the department and where that someone will need to bring broader and softer skills, then probably not.’

Have a try yourself tomorrow with your customers, partners and colleagues. You’ll be surprised how many times this holding answer allows you to give a better answer later than an inaccurate answer earlier.

I guess it makes me more diplomatic than I thought :-).

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