The French saying l’esprit de l’escalier roughly translates to “staircase comeback”, in the case of a hostile exchange. It’s that sick burn you came up with – hours too late. Nice one.
You could also think of it as just a “staircase reply” if the interaction was good or neutral in tone. “Damn, I had a much better answer to that question”, you say, after it’s too late. I rarely have a long meeting without at least one of these.
I wrote a long article that gave a better answer to the question, “what do you mean by strategy – what is that in this context?” I had given an unprepared, bad answer in real-time during a large work meeting. I told myself “This is what I should have said” enough times that I finally decided to write it down. That writing process diluted my thoughts on strategy into a satisfying, one-sentence definition that I can give any time anywhere. It may be totally wrong but at least I don’t rattle on incoherently.
I have thousands of amazing staircase comebacks; some of them just keep getting better over the years (:
You must have a few? I hope so. I think you should accumulate les esprits des escaliers with no shame. It means you care about the quality of your interactions.
But instead of muttering them to yourself or a friend, get them out of your head and onto a page. Not only that – try publishing that page on the Internet, on your business website.
Next time around, you’ll be much more clear.
Have a great weekend ahead,