• Susan Fisher

handling difficult questions



Any time you are speaking to people you need to ask yourself this question: "What is on their minds?"


It may be a live or on video but as soon as people know the topic there will be some thoughts. Really thinking about what is on someone's mind means working out what they know, their concerns, experience, approach, beliefs and fears. These are the questions they have which may not be asked out loud but you should make sure are answered in what you have to say.


And then there are the hard questions which you will be asked out loud.


Gone is the era of spin. Instead we have informed people looking for authenticity which is why only open and honest communication works. The way you answer those hard questions is as important as the data itself. Here's how.


PREPARE

Make a list of the questions on people's minds and all the questions you may be asked out loud particularly the hardest questions.


RESPECT THE FEELING

Show you understand the questioner's feelings , particularly if they are upset.

" I understand why this is annoying. Would you like me to explain ....."


ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Introduce an alternative way of looking at things. This is not the old politician's trick of bridging ( "Well that is not the issue, the problem is ....) It is widening the perspective on what's being discussed.


USE OUTSIDE STANDARDS

Use objective facts or data to show that things may not be possible.

e.g "We are late with this, but overruns are usual in a time of massive growth."


LET THE ROOM DECIDE

Feed back the question to the group/audience and let them decide amongst themselves.


TAKE RESPONSIBILITY & FOLLOW UP

When you really don't know something don't pretend. And where there is a real issue don't sidestep.

Agree and say that you will check or get back to them ( and always do that or let them know why you haven't.)


Do it right and people may be discouraged by the situation but they will think better of you. That's a really good answer.