If you find yourself being asked a question that you don’t want to answer – try to pick apart the question. It may be that the question is multifaceted and really should be a couple of questions all in one. If that is the case, you can choose to answer just part of the question, and avoid the part you don’t wish to delve into. If you want to be professional about it, the best way to steer the question to your desired edge is to say, ‘I understand that this topic is of interest to you. But for now, I shall just focus on this part, as I believe this is the most important.’
Postpone your answer
Sometimes, the reason you don’t want to answer a question is that you simply don’t know the answer. Yes, you can really admit it! The worst thing to do if you don’t know the correct answer is to pretend that you do, as this may put you in even more trouble. However, if you simply want to avoid the question, you can also adopt this method. When asked a question you do not want to answer, you can say something like, ‘Thank you for your question, and I realize the importance of it. However, at this moment in time, I feel I do not have the necessary information to provide the answer. I want to ensure I give you the correct and best answer I can so I will need to get back to you on that one.’ Or maybe something a bit shorter! But you get the gist.
Divert the question and answer
Many professional speakers will know the term ‘bridging.’ In short, this is the ability to divert a question away from a question you do not want to answer or do not know the answer to, and turning it towards a topic which is more suited to what you want to say. This does not mean that you are ignoring the question because you’re not. Instead, you are acknowledging the question, but changing it slightly. If you are in this situation, you could say, ‘Yes, that is a very important and interesting question you have there, but it would be more beneficial to focus on…’
Be wary of your tone
If it is obvious you are avoiding a question, i.e., because of your negative and abrupt tone, the asker may probe you even more, because they know you are hiding something. If you remain calm and polite, the asker will be more likely to move on and not return to that subject. So, it is always important to be wary of your tone to not arise suspicion.
So next time you find yourself in a situation where you wish to avoid a question use some of these clever tactics. You can avoid feeling awkward, you can avoid being rude and you can avoid giving in to the question. Follow these simple rules for a stress-free conversation and never answer a question you don’t want to answer again!