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How to Answer Tough, Nasty Questions from Reporters | Public Speaking | Presentation Skills

How should you answer tough and nasty questions that are very mean and vicious? This rattles a lot of people, even seasoned politicians and CEOs of big companies.

For starters, when you hear a question that you think is nasty, it means that you have not done your job. Your job is to listen carefully to the question and rewrite it. I did not say dodge or ignore the question because if you do that then it will become obvious and everyone will assume that you are guilty or ashamed of something and that the reporter is completely right in any accusations that they are making.

You have to answer the question in your own terms. Let me give you an example:Quite often, I go to foreign countries and have to work with a prime minister, President, or the leader of a major political  party, and some people come up to me and ask me if I feel ashamed about teaching people to lie, spin the truth, and obfuscate. Now that is a tough question so how do I answer that? While I want to say that I do not teach people to lie, it would sound very defensive. I cannot answer the question until I have neutralized it. The real question that the reporter is asking me is how I feel about being in my profession. Now this becomes a completely neutral question. This makes it easy for me to answer that I feel great to be in a profession where I can teach leaders to communicate effectively to the world.

The reporter might not love my answer but they cannot claim that I dodged the question and there is no part of my answer that can be edited to look defensive or negative. It is hard to do it when you are on the spot under pressure and it takes practice to perfect this strategy. But your job is to rewrite the question and make it easier for you to answer so you can keep yourself out of trouble

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