Don’t Answer the Wrong Question!

Yesterday I talked about not asking the wrong question. Today I want to look at not answering the wrong question.

Don't Answer the Wrong Question!

Have you ever watched a skilled interviewer push someone into a corner with they questions they ask? They create no-win questions and then demand an answer from the limited options they designate as acceptable. A classic example of this kind of loaded question is “Have you stopped beating your wife.” The question states that you have beat your wife, and your options are to say you’ve stopped or you haven’t stopped. The only way to deal with such a question is to point out it’s not a valid question and refuse to play. Of course, the asker might then say you’re trying to avoid the fact you’ve beaten your wife.

Hopefully, your dear wife is not intentionally asking you loaded questions. But she might be doing it unintentionally, or she might be asking what seems to her to be a valid question when in fact it’s not valid because it assumes things that are not correct. Or maybe she’s afraid to ask the question she needs to ask and instead picks at the edge of it.

Regardless of why she does it, if your wife asks the wrong question, I strongly suggest you do not answer. Tell her the question is wrong because it makes wrong assumptions or distracts from what needs to be said. If you can, try phrasing a better question and then answering it. If you can’t do that, ask her to rephrase the question. Keep at it until you get a valid question.

Just don’t use this to avoid the truth. The goal is better communication, not hiding what you’ve done or avoiding consequences.

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3 Comments on “Don’t Answer the Wrong Question!

  1. The questions we ask reflect what is most important to us in a given interaction. It could be finding out the information that is most important to us, or it could reflect that winning the argument is most important to us than the answer. I’m guilty of the latter a lot. So you can use your wife’s questions to create a back azimuth (for any other army types) to figure out what she is really looking for, she could do the same for you, most often our leading question is not the most important question.

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