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4 Techniques to Diffuse Hostile Questions

Categories: Handling Questions

Just in case during your next presentation you get some hostile questions, here are four techniques you can use to diffuse the situation and emerge unscathed – helping to secure a successful presentation from start to finish.

  • The Art of the Spin – when paraphrasing the hostile question, turn it around. “The real question you need to be asking is ….” Or, “You’re asking about the investment (never say “price” or “cost”) … it is only XX. And, when you consider XX, it is really priceless.”
  • Leave Your “But” Out – You can acknowledge the person’s concern or point, then say, “and this is why we did that” – as opposed to saying, “Yes; that happened, but ….”  The word “but” negates everything that you said before it. Use “and” instead of “but” – in other words, leave your but out of every argument!
  • Handling the Hot Potato – When challenged, don’t reply by immediately defending your point of view. Instead say, “Where did your information come from?” Or, “What part of my material do you disagree with?” In other words, throw the “hot potato” back at the questioner for further explanation before defending yourself.
  • · The VIPP – When the other person is visibly upset or angry, don’t even try to be rational in the beginning – that only escalates things. Instead, try the VIPP approach:
    • V – Let the person Vent.
    • I – Make an “I” statement like, “I hear what you’re saying ….” Paraphrase what the person has said, and take a stab at how he or she is feeling about the issue.
    • These first two steps typically ensure that the other person believes you have truly heard what he or she just said, and understand his or her feelings about the topic. At this point, you are able to appeal to reason.
    • P – Probe. Ask questions to get more information, so you understand logically what the real issues are.
    • P -- Problem solve. Now you can problem solve, or you can refute the question based on the evidence and logic, not emotion.

Speakers should always anticipate what the challenging questions could be, so they can prepare not only their responses, but also in many cases, include the information within the actual presentation.

Remember, the best defense is a good offense!

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