Difficult questions as a way to reduce discomfort and improve your communication skills

At that moment, I felt like a fool. Five years studying finance and economics, and several years working in an investment bank. And none of those credentials were useful. Despite that experience, I remained silent and answered wrong to the question they asked. And what made me angry was not my wrong answer, or my stupid face when I did it. What made me angry was that, at that moment, in that restaurant, they asked that uncomfortable question without any previous notice, when I was totally unprepared.

We were talking about potential job candidates and the way we make interviews to recruit people for our companies.

– “How much is seven to the power of three?”

– “Ah?”…I answered…

– “Yes, that´s one of the questions I ask potential job candidates to see how they react when they are under pressure…don´t think…Come on…answer…how much is seven to the power of three?”

There are situations that make us sweat and questions that make us angry, or nervous. But not necessarily because we don’t know the answer, but because they make us feel uncomfortable, they take us from our “peaceful zone” and take us by surprise.

Discomfort? Off course. The best way, someone would think, is to avoid situations where someone could ask us an awkward question.

The same thing happens, not only with questions, but with anything that doesn’t depend on us. In any situation we can’t control, we are likely to be exposed to some kind of discomfort, uneasiness or dissatisfaction.

Every day, ask yourself difficult questions

What would happen if we take away other people’s power to make us feel uncomfortable with those awkward question they make? What would happen if we could train our minds in a way that, eventually, we could feel comfortable working in tough environments and answering difficult questions? As Tim Ferris says, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

The difference between those who succeed and those who stay on the road is that the first are willing to answer and not get crushed by uncomfortable or difficult questions. Sure, maybe the first time they hear the questions they don’t have an answer, but instead of getting nervous or complain (as I did) because someone is asking a difficult question, they obsessively start to think about how to come up with an answer and how to solve that problem. That’s how you create progress, that’s how you grow.

What would happen if, every day, I start asking myself difficult questions? How much can I improve my confidence to speak to other people and my capacity to answer and work under pressure? Let’s see, I think the experiment is worth it.With a question a day, I can dramatically reduce the probability of being uncomfortable or scared when I have a difficult conversation with someone.

With a question a day, I can dramatically reduce the probability of being uncomfortable or scared when I have a difficult conversation with someone. Fewer blocks and less stupid faces without knowing what to answer.

This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes a day: asking myself difficult and uncomfortable questions, and then trying to write a concise, short answer.

Now that I think about it, this experiment could bring another type of benefit: Improve my improvisation capacity, my creativity to solve problems and my ability to answer to an uncomfortable situation with humor or at least with a smile on my face. It´s not about having the right answer, it´s about getting better in my reactions, my improvisation skills and my capacity to work under pressure.

  • Ho much is seven to the power of three
  • Two years from now, do I see myself doing the same thing I´m doing today?
  • If I could go out on a date with myself, would I be interesting enough to invite me out on a second date?
  • If I only had one year left, what would I do?
  • If I only had one month left, what would I do?
  • If I only had one day left, what would I do?

Every day, I’ll try to ask myself one difficult question, and then answer it. If I fail to do it, at least I will have a database of uncomfortable questions to bother my friends…