Just a sec, I’m processing!

Once a developer told me, that his worst nightmare is to be an expert in a customer meeting, where the customer asks three questions that are actually complicated to explain, but he is expecting all of them to be answered at once. Another developer told me for his part, that the greatest cause of agony in a meeting is to interact with people that are extremely fast-paced and expect to get answers immediately after the question is expressed.

For both of them I suggested the same solution: What if you lifted your finger and said with calm ”Just a sec, I’m processing” and after that you gave yourself a little time to to think what you want to answer? They both looked shocked and the reaction was the same.

Is it really possible to do so?

Yes, it is. There is no rule to determine that the conversation should be fast-paced and you have no responsibility to be able to answer in a second. Especially to the complicated and multilayered questions. Of course there are some, including me, that ponder upon things out loud. So at the beginning of my answer there is no clarity of where I will eventually end up.

But there are also those who want to finish their contemplation before giving the answer. If you happen to be one of this kind, it is impossible to demand you to answer immediately to a question that needs to be thought of. It is, though, vital to let the listener know that the answer is coming.

The queue numbers and the spinners have their purpose

It’s easier for us to wait, if we know, that the situation is continuously heading towards the point we are waiting for. If the computer seems to be stuck, we lose our nerves at once. If the queue shows no sign whether it’s getting somewhere or not, we leave.

The same way a plain expressionless silence after the question causes unease in the questioner. Is he about to answer? Why isn’t he answering? Was my question stupid or inappropriate? Is he mad or offended? Doesn’t he respect me even a bit so that he would answer my questions? Why isn’t he answering already? It wasn’t that hard a question! And this is supposed to be an expert? Hellooo, answer already!

It is known that the time feels more slow for those that wait. And the one who waits doesn’t have a clue what a mayhem of thoughts, calculations and scenarios there is going on inside your head. However, if you express clearly that “One moment please, I’m processing”, the questioner can relax. Alright, my question is being processed. I can wait for the answer with no haste. The questioner might even feel that he is given a better answer once you have taken some time to go through it.

This I learned from my previous relationship

I used to date an engineer, and it was impossible to have a fight with him. I opened up my heart to him and posed a question. As a response I received an expressionless stare. I waited a second, two, three. I got frustrated and kept talking. I got ever more angry for the reason that he did not bother to give me an answer or participate on the conversation.

Only years later it occurred to me that he would have answered. He was yet processing the answer. I just didn’t understand to be quiet long enough for him to finish his forming of a reply. The problem was that he didn’t look like he was going to answer. He looked as if he had no intention of answering. Had I known better, I would have waited.

The second developer that I mentioned also tried this at home with his fast-paced extroverted wife. The result was said to be excellent. Sometimes it is only up to letting the other person know that you’re about to answer, as long as you are given a little moment to think about it.

TL;DR: Why ”Just a sec, I’m processing” is a brilliant way to buy yourself some time to think

  • If the questioner is expecting to be answered immediately, he gets frustrated if the other remains silent.
  • When we think, our faces often lack expression and the opponent interprets it easily so that the other has no intention of answering.
  • We are patient enough to wait if we know that the answer is coming and it is only being contemplated.
  • Works in the customer meetings as well as in the conflict situations on your relationship.

Or what do you think?

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