I like being polite. But it becomes harder when information comes at me too fast to keep up. My brain panics a little, like I’ve been pushed out of a tree and am grasping for branches as I fall.
This morning, a coworker started asking me a detailed question without any context. I wish I’d said, “Sorry, I need some background info first. Can you please explain the purpose of what you’re trying to do?”
Instead, I curtly interrupted: “Wait – back up – context!”
In the rush of the moment, I can’t find the right words. But if I figure out a script ahead of time, I can follow it. My life is full of situations where I react awkwardly, prepare a script, and do better the next time.
From now on, when I feel overwhelmed by a complex question, my script will be: “Sorry, I need…”
By the time I get those words out, I may know exactly what I need. If I don’t, then my next words will be… “a moment to think.”