Answering Hard Questions

When speaking to reporters, groups or even your neighbors, you may be faced with challenging questions. The best way to deal with them is to anticipate and prepare answers ahead of time. Knowing the answers will help you to feel—and appear—more confident, as well as give better answers. Remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Speak simply, sincerely and with conviction.

  • Anticipate difficult questions and prepare answers ahead of time. If you know you'll be facing hostile questioning, role-play beforehand with a colleague. Answer the worst questions you can imagine. Also practice some easy ones so you won’t be caught off guard.
  • Listen. Really listen. Don’t judge. Try to identify and address the real concern, fear or issue being expressed.
  • Acknowledge. Pause to show you've given the question serious consideration. Frame your answer with a positive. For example, "You evidently have strong feelings about this" or "I respect your views, but let me give you another perspective." "We share your concern for children, but our approach is…"
  • Always answer with a positive. Don’t repeat negative or inflammatory words. Strip away the loaded words and rephrase the question.

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