When you live in a tourist town, you recognize the look immediately; but everyone has seen it at one time or another. It’s the look of someone about to ask you a question. You can see it a block away. It gives you time to embrace the situation and offer assistance, or to attempt to avoid interrogation. Either way, you're taking a risk.
If you’re lucky, the question will be one you can answer easily and without a trace of sarcasm. If you’re not so lucky, you won’t have a clue about the answer and will look like a complete fool. If you're devoid of good luck, you’ll give an answer without thinking and wish you hadn't.
That’s what happened to me recently. I could see the question coming, and decided to take the bait. The problem was that it was not the standard question about restaurants that I’m accustomed to fielding. You know the one: “Where’s a good place to eat?” No, this was a variant of that standard query: “Where do the locals like to eat?”
Now you're probably thinking that the two questions are similar, but I contend that they are not at all alike. You see, when asked the first question about a good place to eat, I automatically reply, "Well, what do you like to eat?" I don't have to give the question a thought. The words just tumble out of my mouth. Then, with more information, the question becomes easier to answer.
However, when asked where the locals like to eat, I didn't have an automatic reply. So what came out of my mouth was the first thought that popped into my head: "At home!" Naturally, this left the two of us staring at each other during one of those interminable, pregnant pauses.
Fortunately the awkward silence was broken by the tourist's laughter accompanied by the words, "That's a good one." This allowed me to laugh and then ask what she liked to eat before making a recommendation. As my father used to tell me, one should always engage the brain before the tongue.
How do you respond when someone is about to ask you a question?
Do you have automatic responses?
Are you able to engage your brain before your tongue?
What part does attitude play in answering questions?