by Karen Susman
Have you ever come up with a sublime answer to a question long after you’ve answered it? Have you ever said, “Wish I could have thought of that answer at the time?” Here are seven question types to prepare for so you can think of the best way to answer in the moment.
1. The “Yes” or “No” question: (For instance: “Are you going to consider the environment in your expansion plans?”) Take time to think. Answer “Yes” or “No” and then support your answer with data, details or examples if necessary. Don’t spin out and around the answer and finally cough up a “Yes” or “No.” In other words, don’t think out loud.
2. Two undesirable choices: For instance, “When you build that road, will the additional traffic pollute my air or ruin my property values?” Answer, “Neither, ” (if that’s true), then offer another option. “Well, studies show that neither one of those events will happen. What will happen is…”
3. “What if…?” questions: Brainstorm all the “What if…?” questions that might be asked about your topic. Generate corresponding answers before someone else asks you. Point out that the question is hypothetical and may never happen. Unless the question is off the wall, “what if” questions are valid and worth answering and thinking about. They test your knowledge. Restate that it’s a hypothetical question, issue and response.
4. Laundry list questions: For instance, “You’re always late, you’re never prepared, you had two weeks to call Suzie and you still owe me $5. What do you plan to do?” This isn’t a question. It’s a statement. Don’t address all issues. Pick one (the most answerable one) and discuss briefly. Then look at the rest of the audience and say, “Next.” If you are answering one on one, get the conversation back on track.
5. Irrational person: Don’t tell someone to calm down. Don’t comment that, “You sound angry.” That will just open the floodgates. Don’t ask them to repeat the question. Stop. Think. Answer one facet of the question and move on.
6. Legal questions: If you know the questions and answers involve legal issues or you suspect that your answer may land you in court, respond by saying, “You’ve asked a legal question and I’ll have to decline to respond.” Or, offer to consult with your attorney and see if you can legally answer the question.
7. Personal questions: “How do you personally feel about the layoffs, Iran or the Broncos?” Give the company line. Don’t go against your organization (unless you can’t morally agree). You represent your organization. A “we-against-them” answer to show you’re one of the unwashed masses is going to backfire.
If someone asks you something rude or inappropriate, don’t get defensive. Comment that the question is personal and get back on topic. Note that you’ll be happy to answer questions pertaining to the announced topic.
Remember to take your time. You can ask the questioner why he is asking the question. You can ask the questioner to clarify the question or give you a specific example. When you don’t know the answer, say so, find out and report back.
You can cut question and answer time short by saying, “We have time for one more question.” End question and answer time with a positive call to action. Then you’ll be back in charge. You’ll leave a positive last impression.
Karen Susman, Speaker/Author/Coach, works with organizations and individuals that want to maximize their performance and quality of life. Check out her free tips and articles at www.karensusman.com. Karen can be reached at 1-888-678-8818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.