One of the things consultant's do is answer questions. Sometimes, we answer things a bit quicker than we should, but if we're smart we'll take some time, sometimes say "I don't know, but I'll get back to you", and then move on. After all, consultant or not, we're not supposed to know everything.

Our problem sometimes comes when we're on the sales side of things, the negotiating side. Out of the blue, people will ask you what you charge, and, because you're always in consultant mode, you might throw out a price that you almost instantly regret, or throw out a time frame that fits you, but may not fit what the potential client needs. Almost always, you know immediately that you went the wrong way, that a little bit of discretion might have been a better route to go because you really haven't had the time to explore just what it is the client needs, and, unless you're selling a specific product, giving a blanket price without knowing all the reasons why might leave you feeling stupid after the fact.

This doesn't only happen to consultants, though. One of the big problems with managers is that they half hear what someone is saying to them, and are already there with the answer to the question that was never asked, and may not have anything to do with what's being discussed. In that realm, I have become a very good listener, not only because I want to make sure I understand what the person is asking, but because it gives me an opportunity to evaluate the skill and competency level of the person asking the question. All of us like to talk, and sometimes that's not really what's called for at the moment.

Listening, learning how to shut up at certain times, can actually make you more effective than you might imagine. At the very least, it'll certainly save you some embarrassment, whether it's from others or from yourself.