The right question makes the situation better
Starla Fitch, MD posted a story in Physician this January: a critical piece of equipment failed in the middle of a demanding optical surgery. The pressure was intense, the crew frozen; and she was trying to get control of herself. Her scrub tech, Brian, defused the situation with a question, his words slow, soft, deliberate “. . . , so as not to topple this apple cart any more than it already is.”
“How can I best help you now?” The calm offer of help – and expression of confidence – saved the day. (And saved a patient’s eye, perhaps.)
What question can we ask the new Toastmaster frightened and intimidated by his first or second speech or his first time in the role of Table Topics Master? “How can I help you right now?” sounds like a good question.
The newbie may not know what help he needs, though. A little aphorism taught to police and military personnel is, WIN – What’s Important Now? If we ask ourselves what’s important now, we can offer specific support.
For example, “Would you like a hand developing your opening and closing?” is far more useful to a newcomer who is close to panic – and excuse making (“I can’t speak this week, my dog ate my script.”).
Or how about, “Would you like to do a walk-through on your Table Topics session? It shouldn’t take more than about fifteen minutes but it’ll help you get the steps clear and smooth your transitions.”
So, “How can I best help you now?” is great, but if she doesn’t know, a follow-up using WIN? can be the ticket to her confidence. That’s where our experience as Toastmasters, from newbie to wherever we are right now helps a lot. We can probably establish quite accurately, “What’s Important Now?” Then we can ask the best question. The one that makes the situation better.