As we strive for tremendous 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 mistake or your worst boss. Perhaps you’re in front of an audience, taking questions, and someone throws a real curveball at you. Here’s how to answer difficult questions.
- Always be fact-finding. 90% of communications have some degree of miscommunication. Make sure you clarify with further questions.
- Yes, and. When someone poses an opinion that’s opposite from your own, instead of saying, “no.” validate them, and convey your idea.
- Be relaxed. High-stakes situations stimulate the fight or flight reflex, but you can prevent that by practicing being relaxed.
- Paraphrase using a positive spin. Humans often perceive messages as being more negative than they are. Reword what you think you’ve heard with a positive spin.
- Compliment. “Wow, you’ve done your research.” or, “I love how passionate you are about this.”
- Buy time. When someone asks you a question, you’re not required to answer at that moment. Say, “Yes, I’m working on that. Let’s schedule some time to chat.”
- Take yourself out of the equation. Don’t feel emotion. If you’re feeling upset, chances are you’re physically tense, and you need to relax your throat.
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 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, ask more questions. For example, “I’d like to be very thorough when answering your questions, so I need a bit more information.” This gives you some time to think about your answer, and the more information you obtain, the easier it’ll be for you to have a great answer available.
The yes, and is 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 be in yourrelaxedplace before & during all communicative situations. Guys, I’ve said it a billion times, and I’ll repeat it. 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
Another unfortunate trait we are left with is the fight or flight reflex. (Which came in handy for our survival.) Unfortunately, when someone is aggressive towards us at work, we can’t run away & we can’t fight. But we usually tense up and have no access to our prefrontal cortex. In order to maintain access to our ideas & genius, we need to be in “our relaxed place.”
The test is if you can keep your throat open at all times. Do my tensing & releasing exercises until they become a conditioned reflex.
Have an Arsenal of Anecdotes
This one is less about dealing with challenging 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 of 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.
For instance, whenever I fly to a corporate client, I think about something interesting or funny that occurred during my journey so that when they ask me, “how was your flight?” I have a fun story available. Instead of being surprised at the question and answering with, “It was ok.”
Master the art of telling short stories, making small talk to strengthen your relationships.
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 than it is. But even if the person is quite hostile 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 your answer organized in your head. And usually, after hearing his question reworded, the speaker will then provide you with more (necessary) information, providing 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. 🙂
It doesn’t hurt you at all to compliment someone. The kinder your speech to others, the more they’ll appreciate you.
Body Language & Tone of Voice
Your body language, as well as your tone of voice, have a massive 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.
Keep your body language open. Open your arms and keep your chest facing the questioner. Open body language maintains your control of yourself, your speech & other people.
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 on the other person. “I’m 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.
Pausing probably should’ve been first on the “How to Answer 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 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 drum up enough mystique and respect.
Answer Difficult Questions
Do you find that it’s even more challenging to answer difficult questions while you’re presenting? It makes sense if you do. It’s easier to answer tough questions when you’re feeling comfortable than when you’re already in an anxiety-ridden situation, which underscores the need for you to be relaxed when you’re presenting!
I hope this helps you to answer difficult questions in your life. Please comment! Tell us your neat tricks for people to answer difficult questions. 🙂 Let me know how you do with the tips I listed above. If they don’t make any sense click on the “contact us” page. Or even if you love them. Let me know!