How to never be lost for words at work

Wow, this meeting has dragged on. We’ve been sat in this incredibly warm meeting room since 9am listening to various people present their views on the new strategic direction for the company.

Surely it’s time for a break soon…

“and so what do you think of these new strategic proposals, David?”

The whole room turns to face you, all wearing expressions of extreme expectation at your answer…

Your stomach churns…

It’s not that you haven’t been listening, it’s worse than that…

The problem is, you really don’t have a strong opinion on this, and every thought that you have had has been covered by someone else…

What to say?

Cue more stomach churning!

I speak from experience and can easily recall times in a meeting when I have been asked for my opinion and have had nothing of real value to add. I’m sure even the best of us have experienced that at some point in our careers.

We’re expected to say something. But what? And how?

The Displacement Technique

If you have nothing to add, or no strong personal opinions on a topic, here’s a great technique for constructing an engaging and relevant answer.

The Displacement Technique is all about taking the question and viewing it from someone else’s viewpoint. The viewpoint you choose to answer the question from should be a person with a much stronger view or interest in the topic than yourself.

For example, if you were asked the question from our fantasy scenario at the beginning of this article:

“…and so what do you think of these new strategic proposals, David?”

You may choose to answer it from the viewpoint of various teams within the business that will be directly affected.

“I think that the new strategic proposals are a positive thing for the business as a whole. My question is, ‘what impact will this have on HR?’.

From their point of view, the aggressive growth plans will mean a massive increase in workload as they bring on board new employees and so we really must give special consideration to their needs.”

Using this example, not only have you provided an answer with relevant content, but the conversation has now been directed towards the HR team and so the audience will look towards the HR representative in the room for a response, taking the focus away from you.

The stomach churning resides…

The benefits of the Displacement Technique

NB. The Displacement Technique is not a technique to build a career around. If you don’t have substance in the long term, you will be found out! However, it is a useful technique for developing an answer and a discussion when you are lost for words!

There are several benefits to using the Displacement Technique when you are lost for words:

  • Looking at the issue from someone else’s viewpoint immediately gives you content. For longer answers, discuss it from multiple angles
  • You add depth to the conversation and can move it towards areas that others have not considered before
  • In the example above, you appear commercially aware, always considering the impact across the whole business
  • You also come across as caring, considering the views of others in all situations!

It is said great leaders unite the positive thoughts of others, and in many ways, the Displacement Technique does just that.

All I ask of you now is that if you use the Displacement Technique to avoid that stomach churning moment, don’t just sit back and relax once the focus is off of you, relishing the fact that you survived.

Instead, do something positive and take the time you’ve bought yourself to think, and ensure you have an answer for the next question that comes your way!