How to deal with the ultimate loaded question: 'Thoughts?'
It's fair to say that more than a few of us have been conditioned to think it's a bit of a loaded question.
Wonder what they're really asking?
Did we do something right or wrong?
Regardless of the situation, there are a few best practice items to take into consideration when confronted by this one word question.
It's always good to factor in the context. Make sure you understand what it is the sender is asking. Sometimes that is not always as obvious as you may think. In the mile-a-minute world we sometimes work in, it's easy to misread, misinterpret or misunderstand.
As many have told me over time, and to my face, humor sometimes does not translate well via email, Twitter or IM.
Take time to reflect and don't react, if, for example, the question is an emotionally charged one. If the question comes in a one word email on top of three to four other emails where the senders are angry, upset or bewildered, it's best to do due diligence to figure out what happened before responding.
As one industry storage analyst commented to me in light of ongoing visceral correspondence, "Never, ever respond the same day. Sleep on it. Then respond with a level head." Sound advice.
Don't leave any stone unturned. Use the opportunity to share relevant insights, perspective and to offer up next steps. Use the question as a way to show you not only understand but you have sound and reasonable action items as follow on. In particular, don't avoid the awkward question but use the opportunity to shed some light.
For example, those of us in PR love when a web site periodically updates a page with a two year old story, and a "Google Alert" resurfaces making it seem like a new article. It's bad enough you may have had to explain why a particular expert, client, partner, customer was not included in an article the first time, but now you have to explain it all over again. Thankfully, those response needs are typically few and far between.
So, my question to you: Are you seeing more opportunity to provide "thoughts" these days or fewer?
Or, better yet: