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How to Answer an Unanswerable Question

Acknowledging Your Anxiety

Acknowledging Your Anxiety

When dealing with difficult conversations, if you are already anxious, any further expectations from others will intensify whatever you are feeling.

You need to address your own emotions by sharing them with your close friends and loved ones, so that you don’t get triggered while playing your role of a leader or parent, where you can transmit your negative feelings and pent-up emotions to those who look up to you.

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How to Answer an Unanswerable Question

How to Answer an Unanswerable Question

https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-answer-an-unanswerable-question

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

Acknowledging Your Anxiety

When dealing with difficult conversations, if you are already anxious, any further expectations from others will intensify whatever you are feeling.

You need to address your own emotions by sharing them with your close friends and loved ones, so that you don’t get triggered while playing your role of a leader or parent, where you can transmit your negative feelings and pent-up emotions to those who look up to you.

Listen to the Unsaid

Sometimes, people are not able to articulate well their needs. Other times, the different questions being asked by our subordinates point to a single underlying problem.

Rather than getting triggered by the repeated questions that sound similar, or deflecting them, a better approach is to acknowledge the underlying problem, and provide an honest and clear answer, while providing a genuine reassurance.

Help Others Find Strength

One of the most empowering things leaders can do in the face of unanswerable questions is to use broader questions to draw out people's deeper concerns.

In doing so, you may end up helping others discover their own strength, which works far better than offering the answer you think they want.

Do not Critique The Questions

Being angry or judgemental towards a question is a sign of instability and weakness. Being defensive when you are an authority figure makes you dismiss other people's feelings and shut down their trust and engagement towards you.

Be honest, compassionate and acknowledge what you don’t know.

Practice Your Tone and Delivery

When you are in the limelight, you are the message. Your words form a fraction of the entire message of yours, which includes your voice tone and pace, body language, and your expressions.

It’s a good idea to convey confidence and conviction if you are sure about the issue.

Recover Fast

If you make a mistake, apologize promptly, and set towards a correction path, taking valuable feedback on the fly, and improvising without wasting precious time.

It will make you more human and likeable, and works even if your answers are not precise.

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