As we strive for greater success in our lives we will often find ourselves on the receiving end of tough questions. They can come unexpectedly and we often need to think on our feet. For instance, When people call you out of the blue and demand answers. Or when you’re in an interview and you get hit with a question regarding your worst mistakes or your worst boss. Perhaps you’re in front of an audience, taking questions and someone throws a real curve ball at you. Here’s how to answer difficult questions.
How to Answer Difficult Questions
Don’t be afraid of getting tough questions thrown at you. Some of them are just hard to answer yet others appear to be coming from a place of challenge or negativity. Here you’ll also learn how to segue from uncomfortable topics. Practice the following tips & you’ll always be prepared.
Always be Fact-Finding
Never just respond to a question if it feels like an attack. When someone puts you on the spot and you’re not clear what your answer is then ask more questions. For example, “I’d like to be very thorough in the answer to your questions. I need a bit more information.” This not only buys you some time but also the more information you obtain the easier it’ll be for you to have a great answer available.
The yes, and is really good for a lot of reasons. You first underscore that you’ve “heard” the person, then you add something additional. You can say, “I hear what you’re saying, yes. It’s challenging, isn’t it? What’s also important to remember is…” This way you can kindly add your point of view while leaving them with respect.
I canNOT over-estimate this. You need to absolutely be in yourrelaxedplace before & during all communicative situations. Guys, I’ve said it a billion times and I’ll say it again. Our bodies continue to go into fight or flight when we are faced with scary stuff. I love this quote from Tim Urban:
Our bodies and minds are built to live in a tribe in 50,000BC, which leaves modern humans with a number of unfortunate traits, one of which is a fixation with tribal-style social survival in a world where social survival is no longer a real concept. We’re all here in 2014, accompanied by a large, hungry, and easily freaked-out woolly mammoth who still thinks it’s 50,000BC
The test is if you can keep your throat open at all times. Do my tensing & releasing exercises until they become a conditioned reflex.
Pausing is so effective. It makes you the winner.
Have an Arsenal of Anecdotes
This one is less about dealing with tough questions and more about dealing with awkward or tough situations. Always be prepared with examples or short stories that segue into more comfortable terrain. They should contain an element or human interest & even vulnerability on your part.
Once you become comfortable with your anecdotes you’ll be able to make them up on the spot.
Paraphrase Using a Positive Spin
When it seems that someone is saying or asking something negative or unkind merely paraphrase what they’ve said into something more positive. Sometimes we can perceive something as being more negative that it is. But even if the person is being quite negative or aggressive you can “talk them down” with your positive take on their message.
You can also paraphrase if you don’t know the answer or didn’t understand the question. This will buy you time to get the answer organized in your head. And usually, after hearing his question reworded, the speaker will then provide you with more (necessary) information. This will provide you with more clarity.
“Wow. You’ve really done your research. How did you come up with that?” (Something like that.) Most people love to talk about themselves. Be aware of what motivates people and use it to the conversation’s advantage. 🙂
Body language & Tone of Voice
Your body language, as well as your tone of voice, have a huge impact on people. They can be ultra soothing to hostile folks. The more air you use the more magnetic you’ll sound & the more people will relax in your presence. That’s part of what makes you a great leader.
Your body language, as well as your tone of voice, have a huge impact on people. They can be ultra soothing to hostile folks.
Take Yourself out of the Equation
If you’re put in a spot where you need to answer difficult questions don’t feel emotion. If you’re feeling upset chances are you’re physically tense and you need to open your throat. (Ask me-I teach you how.) Make your focus only the other person. “I’m totally here for you. I can understand you want this done ASAP. I will do this to the best of my ability. It’s in your best interest for me to be very thorough here.” When you say this with a smooth, resonant voice you become the Credible Authority.
This probably should’ve been first on the “Dealing with Difficult Questions” list. Pausing is sooooo effective. It makes you the winner. We are so quick to answer people that we end up not coming across as the highly sophisticated, confident people that we need to be to get the job done properly.
When someone poses a difficult question to you, turn your body to them, look them in the eye and smile. Take a breath in and then answer. Those 3 or 4 seconds seem like an eternity to you until you get used to it. But they’re not an eternity to your listeners. If they’re long enough the pauses will just drum up enough mystique and respect.
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