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Stumped: How to Answer the Tough Questions

June 02, 2015 2 Minutes

Have you ever found yourself faced with a question that has you totally stumped. You don’t want to come across as stupid, as this is a question you should know the answer to, but the convoluted answer doesn’t come to you in time, and you find yourself umming and ahhhing and looking up to the God’s for divine intervention?

This is particularly the case in high pressure situations, in which even the most simple questions become like giant mathematical equations due to the pressure of the moment. A strong man will know how to get around this issue, and think quickly and aptly to come to an answer, even if he doesn’t quite know it. This is a major factor in charisma of a man, who always is in control, and never stumbles.

So… what do I do when faced with a question that I can’t answer right away?

  1. Take Some Time

What I’ve learnt recently, is that you don’t need to rush. Take your time. We are usually so compelled to answer quickly, that we don’t even think. Take a moment, think about the question, then answer. That pause will also illustrate that you are indeed taking the question seriously and that you really want to give the person the best answer that you can.


  1. Buy Some Time

If you have taken a pause and still can’t articulate a suitable answer, give yourself some more time. Just don’t ‘Ummm’ and ‘Ahhh’ to do this. Repeat the question to make sure you’ve heard it correctly; this also opens up your counterpart to rephrase the question or add more detail to it that may help you compose a response.


  1. Clarify

“So what you’re saying is…”

Re word the question into something easier to understand. Put it into your language parameters This also works with subjective definitions of things, such as…

“Well is this product natural?” to which you may respond, “Well what is your definition of natural, how do you define it exactly?”


  1. Deflect

Particularly for people in power, questions will be asked where you simply cannot give the person the answer they desire. Perhaps we don’t want to give away personal details, or simply think it’s none of their business. My favourite way is to turn the question back onto them.

“Why have sales decreased by 25% this quarter, what are you doing to change that?”

“Well why do you think sales are down? What would you think is the best course of action?”

Or something more direct…

“Which political party did you vote for?”

“Well I share beliefs with both major parties, what policy did you think was the strongest from each?”


  1. Single Out

Many complicated questions are multi-faceted. Pick the question/line of least resistance, and ignore the rest. This is a common tool used by politicians when asked many hard questions that they don’t wish to answer.  


  1. Be Honest

If all else fails, being open and saying “I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to your question” can often be far more empowering than trying to find an answer, or trying to avoid the question altogether.




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