How to Respond to Objectionable Questions

Hostile or challenging questions are typically designed to weaken your position or damage your credibility. You can neutralize such questions by rephrasing them, thus maintaining the strength of your position and your credibility.

It’s critical that when you rephrase a challenging question, you don’t change the issue.

If you change the issue, your credibility will be negatively affected, and your position is likely to be viewed unfavorably. For example, if someone asked (in a hostile tone of voice): “How do you expect us to pay for this outrageous budget you’ve proposed?” If you rephrase: “Why is this the best budget we’ve proposed?” You have now changed the issue of the original question. The original issue is: “Where will the money come from?” Another rephrase option is: “How are we going to fund this budget?” Notice that these rephrase options focuses on the original issue of funding. Also notice that both rephrases omit the negative opinion of the questioner without changing the issue.

A key point to remember in any Q&A situation is that:

You are responsible for the issue of every question, you are not responsible for the emotion or opinion behind any question.

By staying focused on the issue and not the emotion, you’ll realize several benefits:

  • You’ll maintain control of your emotions and not get combative or argumentative with the questioner.
  • The audience will feel empowered to ask anything and know they’ll be treated with courtesy and respect.
  • Your position on the topic will often be strengthened because you didn’t get defensive about any challenge and calmly gave your answer.
  • The audience will see your conviction to the proposed option.
  • Your credibility will be maintained and possibly enhanced because you were willing to answer all challenges in a calm and rational manner.

How you conduct yourself in a challenging Q&A environment can often make or break the audience’s perception of you and your topic. When you handle it well, it’s the “icing on the cake.” If you handle it poorly, it can be the “nail in your coffin.” By staying focused on the issue and not the emotion, you’ll come out ahead.

For more information on handling challenging Q&A and maintaining your composure, please visit Communispond’s website at: and explore our courses on Executive Presentation Skills, Delivering Memorable Presentations, and Sales Presentation Skills.


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